Tamil Travails in Sri Lanka

Same Song, Only a Change of Tune

While the Sri Lankan civil war was in full swing the diaspora Tamils began to protest against the killings of Tamils. The Western governments, including the UN were for the most part played the cryptic game of “Read my lips.” As the Tamil Tigers were getting hammered and hemmed-in, both the US and the UK governments sang from the same hymn sheet. The gist of their rhetoric was, ‘We want to see terrorism wiped out of Sri Lanka. We are however concerned of the civilians who are caught in the crossfire.’

That was just the token message. Tamil civilians suffered and died in their thousands. In utter desperation, deaths of civilians were sadly used as propaganda tool to achieve political ends. As it transpired, the real problem was, in the heat of the battle and in the fog of war, how does one make a clear distinction between combatants and civilians?

Then the news trickled in. The demise of tiger leadership. ‘Talaivar’ Prabaharan’s death. There was gasping silence in the diaspora. The “invincible tigers” have fought to the last but lost. Total shock. Then the Tamil spin-doctors began to work over time. Complete denial. (Except the Tamil Nation website. It announced its closure on 25.01.10)

But, it was bleeding obvious that the game was over.

And the plight of the Tamil IDP’s became the ‘thorn in the flesh’ for the Same Song, Only the Change of Tune regime. However, signs of relative peace, and winning elation were beginning to appear in Sri Lanka. Investments and multi-million dollar contracts, development projects. All these were a great opportunity for the Western governments especially in the current credit crunched economic climate. But the West knew that Sri Lanka under President Mahinda Rajapaksha has gravitated towards China, Russia, Iran, Myanmar and other nations. China, the new super economic power, has a bigger slice of the pie, and that could potentially influence the balance of power in that region. Looking at the bigger picture, it is an obvious worry for the West.

Rajapaksha’s return to power both in the presidency and his party in the recent general elections began to ring alarm bells in many quarters.

For all intents and purposes, the strategy now for the West is to exert pressure from all angles on Sri Lanka. Acute pressure is currently applied through corporate media, human rights industry, and in a very subtle way through some diaspora channels. So now, with the plight of the Tamil IDP’s and the formation of the so-called transnational interim Tamil government (in a Western capital), war crimes allegations have all become pressure points in the Western media. None of these concerns arise out of altruistic reasons It was not too long ago, no Western media out-let was willing to pay much attention on the struggle of the Tamils.

The Rajapaksha government however has not flinched. The backing of the majority of the Sinhala masses for the President is solid.

Concerning the IDP detention and the delay in re-settlement, Sri Lanka officials use the argument that they have to separate the chaff from the wheat, as it were. Once again, the problem of differentiation between civilian and combatant blurs the line. The argument becomes circular.

What is most worrying to this writer is that, within the twists and turns of this narrative, amidst all this “Sympathetic” noise, the voice of the Tamils in the island is drowned and not heard. Many are jockeying for power and position both inside and outside Sri Lanka… All in the name of Tamils.

In this political quagmire reality and idealism seem to be poles apart. Ideologues with their myopic vision have failed the Tamils.

Only realistic pragmatic approaches will help Tamils rebuild their traumatised lives in Sri Lanka.

Chandi Sinnathurai is a peasant priest who believes life is beautiful and divine, hence no one, including one's enemies, should be denied fundamental human rights. He leads Conscience Appeal. Read other articles by Chandi, or visit Chandi's website.

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  1. kalidas said on May 25th, 2010 at 7:54am #

    Each article like this that you offer, Kim, continues to prove beyond doubt what I’ve said and still say..

    Hardly any one at all, especially the Abrahamics large and small, nor the atheists or agnostics. give a rats ass about Buddhists killing Hindus, vice-versa.

    No need for lengthy paragraphs filled with the erudite prose of scholarly suffering. The page after page, day after day agony of injustice and misery.
    No need for links and pastings and choirs of solidarity.
    Not for the idolators, oh no.

    Just the silent yawning and the whisper of, well, we all know..

    Good for you for trying, though.