Fires of hatred still burning amongst the Tamil diaspora
Will protests by the diaspora cease?
By R. Wijewardene
has never been anything like it. Public euphoria at the
prospect of a final end to decades of terror and
violence on the island, last week became a series of
street parties and impromptu celebrations that
threatened to turn Colombo into a non-stop carnival of
that the entirety of the LTTE’s senior leadership had
been annihilated was greeted with scenes of jubilation
in every part of the island. Volleys of fireworks rocked
the capital, dansalas sprang up on roadsides and
kiribath was cooked on the streets – it was like Vesak,
Sinhala New Year and December 31st combined and
men fed each other in the streets and at traffic lights
drivers abandoned their vehicles to join the dancing in
while many of the island’s inhabitants will undoubtedly
rank the days following the announcement of the death of
Velupillai Pirapaharan as amongst the happiest in their
lives there are thousands of Sri Lankans, people born on
this island, who see in the news of the demise of the
LTTE only cause for despair and despondency.
the world’s Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, a community
numbering over 800,000 the announcements regarding the
end of the civil war has not been a cause for
celebration but rather inspired despondency and
Diaspora communities in every part of the world from
Australia to the United States have spent decades
funding and canvassing support for a violent ‘freedom
struggle’ that now appears to be over.
Day of mourning
is a day of mourning for our people, we don’t believe
that he is dead, but it’s not the LTTE but rather the
enormous loss of life – Tamil life in the north, that we
are mourning. Everyone here, all the Tamils are grieving
while the Sinhalese are celebrating,” explained
Subramaniam who publishes a Tamil art and culture
Sunday Leader contacted diaspora organisations in every
part of the world and everywhere speakers highlighted
this sense of division, that while millions of
predominantly Sinhalese Sri Lankans celebrate — Tamil
communities abroad feel only grief, shock and a profound
sense of insecurity.
Expatriate communities have been enormously active
organising demonstrations – much publicised fasts, and
even violent attacks, in an effort to pressure the
governments of their adopted countries to force a
ceasefire in Sri Lanka.
the guns in the north of Sri Lanka have fallen silent,
far from being relieved that the war has come to an end,
expatriate Tamils reported feeling only fear and
Sinhalese and Tamils have reached a parting of the ways
— how can half a country celebrate while the other half
mourns. I was educated at Royal College, in the south
but I no longer feel that I can speak to my Sinhalese
friends,” continued Subramaniam.
and suspicion of the Sri Lankan government and even the
Sinhalese in general is a recurring theme among members
of the Tamil diaspora.
have been betrayed again and again – the end of the LTTE
is not the end of our aspirations — our struggle for
equality. We believe this ‘victory’ is just the
culmination of decades of persecution – the celebrations
– the sense of triumph at Tamil deaths, it all justifies
our struggle,” argued Jana of the Newham Tamil Welfare
Association in the UK.
Confined to refugee camps
Tamils in the
our main concern is not for the LTTE but the civilians
who have been robbed of everything. These were
independent, proud people now they have nothing — they
are confined to refugee camps where anything can happen
to them; the government has taken everything from them
because they are Tamil.”
intransigent fear, the anger of a diaspora that has
shown that it is prepared to finance violence in this
country is now arguably the principal challenge facing
the government as it attempts to pacify the newly
‘liberated’ land in the north.
this nation celebrates ‘liberation’ many Sri Lankans are
prepared to embrace and accept the government’s promises
to build a new unified inclusive nation on the ashes of
the Eelam dream, but the diaspora is exposed to an
entirely different set of news and propaganda.
hear that Tamils are now living in fear. Because of this
‘victory’ they are being taunted in the streets; in
Jaffna the EPDP and the army are forcing people to buy
flags at inflated prices and celebrate – celebrate what?
The deaths of their own people.”
the Tamil diaspora has been vilified and portrayed as
deeply insincere by the local media the concern the
speakers expressed regarding the welfare of Tamil
civilians, appeared, in every case to be genuine and
across South Africa Tamils are holding religious
ceremonies for the thousands who have died in
explained Murugan, a Tamil journalist. “Even though
Tamils in South Africa are of predominantly Indian
descent there is deep concern about what has happened in
However the lack of alternatives the continued
commitment to violence and the doctrine of the separate
state is at times genuinely distressing. Not a single
member of the Tamil diaspora contacted by The Sunday
Leader was interested in a future within a united
Extraordinarily the views of the younger generation many
of whom had been born outside Sri Lanka were often even
more hard-line than those of the older expatriate
struggle will go on, even without Pirapaharan, without
the LTTE. A separate state for Tamils is an idea that
cannot be defeated. As long as Tamils are denied their
freedom the attacks, the violence will continue, that’s
all we can say,” said a speaker from the Young Tamil
Association in France, which has organised a series of
much publicised fasts in the French capital.
voices of fear and hatred are ones that many in the
government and broader Sri Lankan society would like to
dismiss as irrelevant. Simply the propaganda of those
who need the LTTE and the armed struggle to continue in
order to maintain their residence visas in the West.
this off hand dismissal is simplistic — many if not most
of the Tamils demonstrating in
Europe and elsewhere are naturalised citizens, their commitment to separatism
and the armed struggle is fuelled only by their
conviction that the Tamils of Sri Lanka cannot coexist
with the Sinhalese.
decades of war funded by Tamils abroad is testament to
the influence the Tamil diaspora is able to wield even
from thousands of miles away and distant as they maybe
the Tamil diaspora has proved that it is anything but
pro LTTE demonstrations have rocked capitals around the
world and were a demonstration of the organisation and
commitment that defines the diaspora. Ultimately however
there is no hiding the fact that the demise of the LTTE
has thrown Tamil communities worldwide into confusion.
Hatred, fear and mistrust
the hatred, the fear, the mistrust still voiced by Tamil
community leaders abroad remains perhaps the principal
danger to peace and stability on the island. Over the
past three decades these communities have financed
several wars on this island and they may yet be prepared
to finance another.
the LTTE’s Eelam wars may have ended the ethnic conflict
in the island will end only when the hatred, fear and
the suspicion held by several sections of Sri Lankan
society are broken down.
only by convincing the expatriate Tamil community to
stop financing hatred and fear in
can the government and the country hope to make progress
in the reconciliation process this island now
put a final end to divisions in Sri Lanka it is now
imperative that steps are taken to convince Tamil
communities outside of Sri Lanka that a future is
possible within a unified if not necessarily unitary
the past decades the diaspora as much as the LTTE proved
itself a powerful and intransigent foe – one that unlike
the LTTE remains highly motivated and undefeated. The
biggest challenge confronting the government and the
country at present now regards how to set about turning
this foe into a friend.
money and campaigning zeal of the diaspora fuelled a
destructive armed struggle to divide
for 26 years – the same energy and wealth used to
further the development of the island could yet herald a
new dawn for the country.
The West’s duplicity rears it’s ugly
By Faraz Shauketaly
success in crushing the terror perpetrated by the LTTE
appears to have met with a tepid response from the West.
Despite unequivocal evidence that the LTTE co-founder,
Velupillai Pirapaharan was killed by the Sri Lankan
forces, the international response went beyond
Demanding DNA verification, doubting the identification
by a former close aide, it was the same agencies that
took at face value without corroboration LTTE claims of
government attacks on civilians. The Tamil diaspora
living in these countries had demonstrations, damaged
property, paraded the LTTE flag, carried banners and
posters of Pirapaharan and caused as much mayhem as they
possibly could, completely disregarding the democratic
laws of such countries as Britain, France, the United
States and Canada.
was, after all not the ANC we saw being supported on the
streets of London and neither was Pirapaharan held in
the same esteem as Nelson Mandela.
was despite the fact that the LTTE was an organisation
that had been proscribed by each of these countries.
Indeed, these very countries would never tolerate let
alone permit, an organisation such as al Qaeda, to
gather in Parliament Square, bandying about portraits of
Osama bin Laden and waving militant flags. The closest
that al Qaeda supporters have got to demonstrating in
is quite possibly on a soap box at Speaker’s Corner —
apart from that, the authorities in the West are ever
mindful that these groups like al Qaeda are perpetrators
of terror and extremism. The effects the LTTE had on Sri
Lanka’s tranquility – if not its development this past
quarter century – is proof indeed that the LTTE too were
equal if not more subversive than their Arab
President and his ministers heard the pleas of David
Miliband, the visiting British Foreign Secretary and his
European counterparts. They heard too the pleas of their
powerful superpower regional neighbour, India. In
language that bore no ambiguity at all, it was made
perfectly clear that the Sri Lankan forces had come much
too close for any let up to be considered.
had suffered for close on 26 years and with victory in
sight, it was the turn of the Sri Lankans to be
incredulous at the inequity of the requests. Ironically,
David Miliband was making his request of the Sri Lankan
government, just as an US air strike in Afghanistan went
horribly went wrong causing the deaths of innocent women
and children. A very embarrassed President Obama had to
open his meeting with the Afghanistanis with an apology
for the collateral damage.
quaintness of the English language is called upon to
explain away the deaths of innocent women and children
in Afghanistan and Iraq and regularly in the Palestinian
state. How equitable is the call to refer Sri Lanka’s
own collateral damage to International Tribunals
investigating the possibility of war crimes?
Sri Lankan Defence Secretary’s US citizenship is cited
as an avenue to circumvent the fact that Sri Lanka is
not a signatory to the International Criminal Court in a
lob-sided attempt to pander to the lobbyists
representing the LTTE. Will this attitude really help
the fight against international terrorism? Will it be
useful in providing urgent relief to the internally
displaced in Sri Lanka? Can we waste time when misery is
the order of the day?
Tamil diaspora has for the past 26 years been more or
less forced to support the LTTE financially either due
to the fact that many left behind relatives in Sri
Lanka’s north or in the hope that Pirapaharan would
deliver a separate state carved out of the tiny island
nation. In the 1990s when the LTTE controlled nearly a
third of Sri Lanka’s land mass, it might have appeared
that the diaspora were backing the favourite. Yet, 26
years later they as indeed the world at large are
appalled at the suffering of their brethren and the
predicament they find themselves in.
time is right for the Tamil diaspora – if indeed they
care for their kith and kin and not to protect their
immigration status in the West, where they live mainly
as refugees – to engage in constructive and genuine
humanitarian relief assistance by sending their millions
of dollars to a cause that is certainly far more worthy
than that espoused by the LTTE leadership.
West calls on
to hurry up with the political changes required to bring
equality to all Sri Lankans alike. With due respect, the
Sri Lankan President has only just discharged a duty
that all his predecessors had failed in — including the
Leader of the Opposition, the architect of the failed
Ceasefire Agreement — who with predictable opprobrium
was not even present in parliament to share the national
joy of the Presidential parliamentary statement
proclaiming that victory.
President Rajapakse, with the victory and importantly,
the death of Pirapaharan, firmly under his belt, and
indeed with the confidence that comes with that, will
now turn his attention to something that needs his
urgent attention now, rather than later: the plight of
nearly 300,000 of his citizens in 42 temporary camps.
That is far more urgent than political solutions which
are, in any event imminent.
Sri Lankan government pauses rightly to take stock of
the unique position it now finds itself in – despite the
self-imposed predicament Western democracies say they
are in – President Rajapakse will no doubt consider what
lies ahead. Colombo is committed to permanent policy
changes which will foster communal harmony in Sri Lanka.
The changes must be far reaching and all encompassing.
majority Sinhalese and the minority Muslims too have
issues in terms of living in the north of their country.
Colombo’s task is not easy but certainly, the Wind of
Change is blowing its way and it is only Colombo who
will have the ability to tweak the sails of peace on
West considers ‘punishing Sri Lanka’
West is certainly dragging its feet: they speak of the
urgency of aid to the internally displaced, yet they
have sidelined Sri Lanka’s local relief agencies and Sri
Lanka’s government too. Instead of being warm, sincere
and encouraging in their appreciation of the President
and his government for their success in crushing one of
the world’s most ruthless terror organisations whose
tentacles stretched internationally, whose terror
changed the course of India’s politics and who advised
Arab terrorists in the use of the suicide bomb weapon,
they – the so-called democratic West – seek to punish
Sri Lanka if not bully and coerce it – by delaying the
granting of a loan sought from the International
West is all but pandering to a defunct terror
organisation instead of working in harmony with a
democratically elected government. The US administration
was quick off the block in granting
aid of over USD 110 million to help with humanitarian
issues in the Swat Valley as they fought wretched
battles to rid the world of the al Qaeda menace. There
is no such urgency for Sri Lanka despite their stunning
victory over the LTTE.
President Rajapakse by virtue of his swift victory is
now a man in a hurry: he will be forced to rely on
Iran and perhaps Libya, very soon if he is to
successfully alleviate the suffering of his 300,000 plus
internally displaced population. The West will need to
realise that democratic ideals and humanitarian aid are
not their sole preserve.
Sri Lankan President got it right when he declared in
parliament that Sri Lanka will have to hatch a homegrown
solution to its problems: just like they did with the
War on Terror. And, judging by the jubilation displayed
by the Maha Janathawa across this ancient land, there’s
nothing wrong with that.