தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'
R.Shanmugalingam

Chapter 23

There seems to be some confusion between tamiz and tamizan because Tamil in English is used for both. I am compelled to grouch about a mail apparently sent by the SL Embassy in Washington, as the Post Mark is Washington DC.

The extent to which the Sinhala government will stoop down is evident from the copy of an Advertisement page from The Guardian International dated Saturday December 16, 1995. The ad carries at the bottom of the page: Sri Lanka Association For Peace and Democracy, Suite 22, Unit 239, Elephant & Castle Center, London SE1 6TE.

The ad is a compendium of statements and opinions directed against LTTE and full blooded patriotic tamizar like you and me, dating back to February 1995. Every piece is either a misrepresentation or the result of misrepresentation of the truth. I will delve into this in a later chapter. I append below a copy of a letter from Sanmuga Suntharam to Prof. Singer, that throws more light on the tamiz truth vis a vis the Sinhala propaganda untruth.

Professor Marshall R. Singer, Ph.D.    
Professor of International and Intercultural Affairs.    
University of Pittsburgh    
4200 5th Avenue    
Pittsburgh, PA 15260.    

Dear Professor Singer

        When I left Ceylon in May 1958 for England I barely escaped with my life. Soon after the Sinhala mob slaughtered hundreds of Tamils burnt down Hindu temples with priests in them and committed unspeakable atrocities as the police and the Sinhala politicians looked on with smug satisfaction.

Since then there have been many more acts of unilateral violence by the Sinhala against the Tamils, the most horrendous of them was in 1983 which the then President Jayawardene commented upon with the memorable words - " This is the least the Sinhala people can do" or such similar sentiments. I have paid two short visits to Sri Lanka (the island has taken a Sinhala name since 1972 or so) only on two occasions since I left in 1958, once in 1966 and again in 1971.

    Your contact with Sri Lanka is apparently just the obverse of mine starting 40 years ago and continuing to date and I am sure you may have many friends both among the politicians and the ordinary citizens. You are a scholar and therefore while I recognise that you are human and cannot be totally free from biases and undercurrents of feelings, you will in the tradition of American scholarship at   least overtly attempt to make plausibly fair presentation of the case in Sri Lanka.

Reading the transcript of your testimony of the 14th November 1995 presented to the Subcommittee I was not altogether disappointed. I thank you on behalf of the long suffering Tamil people (and also other refugees) for having brought to the attention of the subcommittee the deplorable state of affairs in my land of birth. I hope you will continue to do your good work to help the displaced and besieged until the last member of the occupying army leaves the land of my forefathers!

    Please bear with me as I go through the text of your testimony, for I am sure as an intellectual you will not be averse to criticisms. I make these comments not in an adversarial mode but as a kindred spirit, for both of us seek fairness and truth. You have shown wisdom in your remarks and I commend you and thank you for it.

    First let me point out a factually misleading statement which is very innocent looking but in the context of Sinhala jingoism and outrageously baseless irredentism it is significant. You state that the Tamils came to Sri Lanka in the 10th century A.D., it is nearer the truth to say 10th century B. C.. Let me mention one very important event the approximate date of which the Tamils and Sinhala agree on. I am sure you would have heard about the hero of the Sinhala by the name Gemunu. His fame rests on the historical fact that he defeated the Tamil King Ellala the Just in the North of Sri Lanka in the second century B. C... I have also enclosed some archeologically interesting information copied from Maldives Mystery by Thor Hyeredahl the famous explorer/archaeologist which goes further than what I have said here.

    However futile Kumaratunga's package may be it has the outstanding merit of having served her eminently as a public relations ploy. Everyone is using the same expressions and vocabulary to praise it, so much so, that one wonders whether these expressions have a common origin, such as a PR organisation? Even a genuinely progressive and courageous leader when offering a political package faces dilemma. If it is any good for the Tamils the Sinhala will reject it. If it does not offer adequate safeguards for the Tamils it would be suicidal for them to accept it. But Kumaratunga is a child of Mr. and Mrs. Bandaranaike. And her mother is her Prime Minister! It is a widely held opinion among the Tamils that package is meant to divide the Tamils, disarm the Tigers and pull the wool over the eyes of the interested international community.

Chamberlain had more reasons for sanguineness with Hitler's Treaty than would the Tamils have with Kumaratunga's package. Had Hitler wanted to honour the treaty it would have been a success. But with Kumaratunga's package even if she has genuine intentions which many doubt and the package clears all the hurdles there is plenty of precedence to assume that it will not be implemented honestly. ( In the last negotiations with the Tigers, Kumaratunga agreed on the relaxation of a number of crippling restrictions on the movement of supplies and people to the Tamil areas but failed to get it into the government gazette. When the restrictions were reimposed they got gazetted with great promptitude!)

The crux of the problem with the package is the constitutional status of the centre. The centre will have absolute Sinhala majority and the Tamils will be marginalized as ever with their political institutions relegated to the status of glorified municipalities. Unless there is structural constitutional parity the Tamils will be walking into a trap with this package.     What amazes me and a large section of Tamils is the universal belief in the sanctity of unitary government for the whole of Sri Lanka. The view seems to be widely held that the larger the size of the entity the better the government (except when that government is our enemy such as the Soviet Union!) And the more centralised the power the more democratic it is!

Just as those who believe in the sanctity of marital state wanting to send back the much abused wife to her abusive husband (and of course the husband also wanting to domineer her) the international community (and of course the Sinhala) wants the Tamils to remain in this abusive relationship.

Would one save a life or preserve an abusive relationship? Why cannot we free ourselves from this idee rescue which has ossified to an idee fixe and try to envision two separate countries living in amity with a loose relationship? A matter that infuriates the Tamils in the island of  Sri Lanka endlessly is the Sinhala presumption that the whole island of Sri Lanka is by right theirs to own and govern and that the Tamils are squatters. This presumption is intimately integrated with their dangerous delusion that they are Aryans and ipso facto deserve to dominate.

    Cells divide and form new cells; that is the basis of life and not the end of it. Children grow up, leave the parental homes and set up their own. That is not the end of the family but the growth of it. The Tamils want to develop their own peculiar culture and their own special skills within their own power structure not having to account constantly and consistently hostile Sinhala authority. This is exactly what the Sinhala dislike and, believe me, are determined not to let happen.

    You made some comments about the ruthlessness of the Tigers in dealing with the colonists. It is very regrettable when lives are lost for no fault of theirs in conflicts like this. Tamil lives were lost by the indiscriminate bombings and shellings by the Sinhala soldiers who invaded the Tamils homes in their homeland. As far as the colonists are concerned we should remember the following facts.

        1.    The colonists and the government were fully aware when they  occupied Tamil land of the strong feelings of bitterness and  hostility that they generated among the Tamils.

        2.    The colonists were considered both land thieves and aggressors.

        3.    There is a large element of ex-convicts among the colonists who were sent there by design.

        4.    Colonization was a program deliberately designed to alter the  political landscape of Sri Lanka in favour of the Sinhala.

        5.    Colonists were perceived as an arm of the armed forces of Sri Lanka for very good reasons.

        6.    The very first act of the Tigers against the colonists was an act of  retaliation for many previous acts of unrestrained violence against  the Tamils by the Sinhala colonists assisted by the armed forces in  which many Tamil lives were lost.

        7.    Tigers actions were preceded by adequate warnings.

    Guerrilla actions, as you will appreciate, are taken under a state of stress where speed of accomplishment of mission makes all the difference; the participants might not have used casuistry and physically separated the able from the infirm particularly when most colonists were armed by the government. One should not forget the fact that among the guerrillas are those whose mothers, sisters, and parents and grandparents were slaughtered by the colonists or the army.

    Having said so much about the ruthlessness about the Tigers in their attack against the colonists we also have responsibility to show how to stop the colonists who are aggressively occupying their land with the help of the armed forces. (Tamils did in the past try non-violent demonstrations and got badly mauled by the Sinhala mob, the army and the police.)

And finally, in your Major assumptions #4 you say that the vast majority of the Tamil population are more willing to settle for more compromise than the Tigers and that the Sinhala people may not be willing to go. The Tamils are suckers and the Sinhala know it. That is why the Sinhala made their leaders renege on every pact that was made with the Tamil leaders.

That is also why Tigers look upon it as tactics by the Sri Lankan government to neutralise them and to put out the fire that took so long to start when the government went through the motions of negotiations. The philosopher Santayana said those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it and the Tigers remembered the past with vengeance. Why condemn them for it?

    I have generally defended the position of the Tigers in the above polemics. Once one accepts such movement one has to compromise on certain values that one holds dear for, if conventional wars are bad enough, guerrilla wars are worse.

At a time when the Tamils were routinely subjected to violence and humiliation the Tigers gave them courage and dignity - yes, dignity and Pirabaharan is their Prometheus!

The Tamils should never forsake them for the Scintilla. You have recounted the Tamales trials and tribulations well and you have shown how difficult it is for the Tamils to live with the Sinhala or to trust their leaders. But how could anyone assume that an absolute Sinhala majority government will honour any pact or carry out any of the constitutional provisions favourable to the Tamils?

A long term solution should have not only a constitutional veto power for the Tamils but also the right to have a strong enough defence apparatus to repulse aggression.

    I wish to thank you once again for the concern you have shown for the victims of the war and in particular for the understanding you have displayed of the Tamils grievances. Please do not abandon us or the great work you are doing.

On a personal note, if you are ever inclined to come to Florida make it a point to let me know, please.    

Sincerely     Sanmuga Suntharam.

        Please circlites especially the full blooded tamizar can't you see the damage they the Sinhalas are doing? Their PR machine is in top gear. Lobbying is swaying sympathy where apathy should be the norm. All because we think nature and the great healer TIME will do our work?

Let me sleep over the cunning, the gall of our temporary masters and those quasi tamizar shamelessly endorsing the blatant lies, so that my memory will continue to grind for tomorrows 24th chapter.

continued

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