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 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search
Home >Tamils - a Trans State Nation >  International Tamil Conferences > Tamil National Forum  > Tamil National Forum 2007 > Tamil National Forum 2006 > Tamil National Forum 2005 > Tamil National Forum 2004 > Tamil National Forum 2001 > Tamil National Forum 2000 > Tamil National Forum 1999 > Tamil National Forum 1998 > Visitor Comments on Website >
 

Tamil National Forum
TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM - 2007
thamilan.gif (2654 bytes)

You may email your letters/articles (in Tamil or in English) for publication here. Additionally, you may send your comments on the tamilnation.org website for publication in the Visitor Comments section.  


From: Srinivasan Varadarajan, Chennai, 19 October 2007

On Rajaji & One Hundred Tamils of 20th Century


C.Rajagopalachari

Vannakam. I saw your mail first and replied it expressing my thanks. I saw the Tamil National Forum only now. As I am new to your website, I had a little difficulty in locating where the letters are published.

I was pleasantly surprised to see you publishing the entire song "Kurai Ondrum Illai". It was so thoughtful of you. Though everybody sings it, the song rendered by Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi stirs your heart unfathomably. The first time I heard the song (as one who knows nothing about Carnatic music nor interested in it unless a Tamil song is well sung) I was moved to tears, virtually crying. It is strange because I am a non-believer. It happens every time I hear Smt. M.S. singing that song. I used to feel that it may be because of the sacrifices made by the persons involved in making the song. M.S. has contributed crores for charities and Rajaji left his lucrative profession and very prosperous future for the freedom movement. One Mr. Venkatraman has composed the music for the song. I do not know anything about him.

On the point of the 'unhealthy trend to idolise'  I fully agree with you. Since some letters have appeared in your esteemed forum, which to my knowledge are not based on facts, and are mostly based on prejudice, I had to highlight how deserving Rajaji is and he was indeed a great Tamilian and no idolising was intended.

Coming to "kula kalvi thittam' (misnomer to the core), Rajaji was talking about making our children learn physical/manual/ technical jobs, apart from bookish knowledge, even when he was the Governor of West Bengal.

When he took over as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the number of schools were few. There was an urgent need to spread education to the maximum number of children. The shortest way was to introduce staggered hours in school, with two shifts - one morning shift and one after noon shift. With no extra cost, twice the number of children could be educated. The teachers of course would have had  to work more.

The immediate question was how the children will spend their leisure hours which would become more than usual. Rajaji' s solution was that the children will help and learn from their parent or from their VILLAGE, their work.

Ma.Po.Si. and other followers of Rajaji, visited various places to dispel the wrong notions spread by the opposition and also Rajaji's opponents in Congress. Kamaraj, a disciple of Rajaji's arch rival Satyamurti remained neutral. While Rajaji was asked to take back the scheme, he preferred to resign saying that if he takes back the scheme and continues in office, future generations will spit on his grave. The only blunder committed by Rajaji was that in his over enthusiasm, he introduced the scheme in that current year itself with an ordinance. Had he waited, prepared the people and brought the scheme in the next academic year through legislation, the suspicions would not have been there.

It is easy to call anyone especially a Brahmin a casteist in the present times and accuse him of having "Sathi Veri". If Rajaji was one such person, he would not have done so many things that he did in his life.

'Prohibition' was introduced only to save the innocent downtrodden people, whom he considered as his own children from the clutches of alcohol, which has and is destroying millions of homes.

If Rajaji was a 'casteist',  he would not have persuaded an English principal to admit Harijan boys in their schools, he would not have appeared for a Harijan who was arrested for having entered a temple. (Actually Rajaji violated Gandhiji's instructions to all to stay away from their respective professions, knowing fully well Gandhiji will approve his act in the present context). Rajaji  argued and got a Dalit brother released. Gopala Krishna Gandhi, the present Governor of West Bengal, has written a beautiful article in the Hindu sometime back, narrating this incident, wherein he calls the Harijan victim whom Rajaji rescued as the (Maanaseeka) co-author of the song "Kurai Ondrum Illai".

If Rajaji was a 'casteist', he would not have refused when the residents of Agraharams appealed to him to remove the Harijans posted to release water for their area through Municipal taps. When they threatened him that the elders will die, without drinking water, he told them they can do as they like, but he will not remove the Harijans from that post. He would not have accepted Gandhiji's son as his son-in-law. In fact Gandhiji sought the guidance of some Vedhic scholars whether he being a vysya can get a Brahmin daughter-in-law. (Only Gandhiji can do that). There was absolutely no problem with Rajaji.

Rajaji  has eaten from the hands of Periyar's wife. For long years his cook was from the downtrodden community. He was not wearing the religious symbol on his forehead, like most other Tamil leaders of his time. He was not wearing the sacred thread for most years.

 'Sathi Veri' is the weapon in the hands of lesser politicians, who do not mind uttering lies, who do not mind swallowing public funds, who do not mind creating hatred and mistrust among people.

Anna joined hands with Rajaji in 1967, and Kamaraj was defeated. Anna passed away in 1969. The DMK regime became different. When in 1971 Kamaraj joined with Rajaji, it was too late. I sometimes feel, that if Rajaji and Kamaraj were alive today or in the 1980's the problems faced by Eelam Tamils would have been over. Using their all India status and statesmanship they would have brought relief, respect and freedom to our suffering Tamil bretheren (sondha sagotharargal).

Jaya Prakash Narayan while declaring Rajaji Ninaivaalayam open in Chennai said  'Rajaji is the most misunderstood man in recent Indian history. He is next only to Gandhiji in stature. Believe this. I am a non-Brahmin telling this and I am not a Brahmin'.

A heart which has penned "Dhikkatra Parvathi" "Jasmine Flowers", "Ardha Naari",  that has translated Araththu Paal in English and Gita in Tamil and the person who moved for decades with the Munivar Mahatma Gandhiji was above all these petty things. Caste was the weapon wielded against him by some of his opponents.

He along with Nehru was one of the rare leaders who did not allow anyone to erect his statue, during his life time. He refused to write his auto biography saying one will be forced to write lies. He rejected anyone who approached him to write his biography, saying that 25 years after his death no one will be remembering him and there is no need for a biography - the act of  a  selfless man.

The last words that escaped his lips was  'I am happy' when doctors asked him how he was feeling in his death bed. They were the very same last words to his closest friend Rasikamani T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudhaliar, in whose house Rajaji stayed for weeks together for many years. Not a single person from his caste has Rajaji encouraged as his heir. C.Subramaniam, Ma.Po.Si., mi.pa.Soma Sundaram, Ayyamuthu were all his shishyas.

Rajaji  was a mortal, he had his shortcomings. He also had enemies. He was a Congress man. He opposed Congress in his later years. He called Communists his first enemies. He opposed the DK and the DMK. He saw to it that Chennai, then Madras, became part of Tamil Nadu and not part of Andhra. He opposed Hindi in later years. But all these were not for any selfish gains. He stood by whatever he considered was good for the people and the nation. And despite his enemies he stood heads and shoulders above them. That is why all leaders from Jawaharlal Nehru to Kalaingar and MGR (the younger leaders at that time) respected him.


MGR with Rajaji

I don't want to enter into any debate. I am not here to prove any point. I am concerned with 'Thamizharin otrumaiyum, uyarvum'. I find unlike in other parts of India or even South India, Tamils are fragmented as Brahmin, Non-Brahmin, Dalit, etc. The Non-Brahmins are further fragmented into various castes. So also are the Brahmins and Dalits.

Then there are the religious and political divisions. In Andra, Karnataka or Kerala they unite for a common cause. They don't exclude or abuse anybody from their linguistic community as non- Telugu or Non-Kannadiga or non-Malayalee. They never let down each other.

When the late P.V.Narasimma Rao stood in a by election, after becoming the Prime Minister of India, late Mr. NTR did not field any candidate against him to enable PVR , a Telugu son, to get elected and continue as PM. PVR was a Brahmin, NTR was a Naidu; PVR was a congress man, NTR was Congress' arch rival Telugu Desam's founder leader. Can you expect that in Tamilnadu? Mullai Periyaru, Paalaru, and Kaveri are issues which bear ample testimony to what I am saying.

If Tamils unite, not against anybody, but per se, they can produce miracles which will heal all their wounds and end all their woes; may be they can become the nucleus of the world community. Then the world will be Tamilnadu, whether identified or not, whether recognised or not. Nandri. Anbudan, Va.Srinivasan.

Response by tamilnation.org  We published the entire lyric of the song "Kurai Ondrum Illai", because apart from anything else, we too have often been moved to tears to hear  Smt. M.S.Subbulakshmi's rendering of that song. It is fortunate that her song may now be heard on video in the world wide web  [ Video: Kurai Onrum Illai - Ragamalikai ]  It was Arthur Koestler who spoke about the self transcending AAH...! experience as "an expression of a longing to enter into a quasi-symbiotic communion with a person, living or dead, or some some higher entity which may be nature or a form of art or a mystic experience". To Koestler this was a manifestation of the integrative tendency in each one of us. You may watch a sunset and almost merge with it and breathe AAH...! You may listen to M.S.Subbulakshmi, lose yourself in the magic of her song and almost feel transported to another frame of existence and breathe AAH... - and dissolve in tears of joy.

Said that, we thank you for having taken the trouble to have written at length on Rajaji. We ourselves have not found difficulty in recognising Rajaji as one of the Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century. We agree with you that "...it is easy to call anyone, especially a Brahmin a casteist in the present times and accuse him of having 'Sathi Veri'". And you are right to call upon the Tamil people living in many lands and across distant seas to unite, not against any body, but 'per se'. We as a people have contributed much to the civilisation of the world - and we, as a people, have more to contribute as well. Here the words of Frantz Fanon at the Congress of Black African Writers, 1959 on the Reciprocal Bases of National Culture and the Fight for Freedom are not without relevance "..It is at the heart of national consciousness that international consciousness lives and grows. And this two-fold emerging is ultimately the source of all culture. "

From: M.S. Thambirajah, United Kingdom, 17 July 2007

Dear Tamilnation - I can understand the sentiments expressed by S. Varatharajan and I would agree that no one should be excluded or discriminated on the basis of caste. But in evaluating the contributions of our leaders there is an unhealthy trend to idolise them, especially those who are dead. My particular point  here is about Rajaji's proposal to introduce education based on caste (the ancient varnamsira murai) so that the so called lower castes would be deprived of social mobility and the dominance of the Brahmin caste would have been maintained. So often this reactionary and caste mad ('sathi veri') aspect of Rajaji is concealed, Eno theriyavillai.

Response by tamilnation.org  We agree that 'in evaluating the contributions of our leaders there is an unhealthy trend to idolise them, especially those who are dead'. Many years in 1948, ago Wilhelm Reich wrote in Listen, Little Man  -

"They call you 'Little Man', 'Common Man'; they say a new era has begun, the 'Era of the Common Man'. It isn't you who says so, Little Man. It is they, the Vice Presidents of great nations, promoted labour leaders, repentant sons of bourgeois families, statesman and philosophers. They give you your future but don't ask about your past....I have never heard you complain: "You promote me to be the future master of myself and the world, but you don't tell me how one is to be the master of oneself, and you don't tell me the mistakes in my thinking and my actions...

... The Little Man does not know that he is little, and he is afraid of knowing it. He covers up his smallness and narrowness with illusions of strength and greatness, of others' strength and greatness. He is proud of his great generals but not proud of himself. He admires thought which he did not have and not the thought he did have. He believes in things all the more thoroughly the less he comprehends them, and does not believe in the correctness of those ideas which he comprehends most easily....

Your liberators tell you that that your suppressors are Wilhelm, Nikolaus, Pope Gregory the Twenty Eighth, Morgan, Krupp or Ford. And your 'liberators' are called Mussolini, Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin. I tell you: Only you yourself can be your liberator! This sentence makes me hesitate. I contend to be a fighter for pureness and truth. I hesitate, because I am afraid of you and your attitude towards truth... My intellect tells me: 'Tell the truth at any cost.' The Little Man in me says: 'It is stupid to expose oneself to the little man, to put oneself at his mercy. The Little Man does not want to hear the truth about himself. He does not want the great responsibility which is his. He wants to remain a Little Man...."

From: Srinivasan Varadarajan, Chennai 16 July 2007

Vanakkam. 

1. The article on J.Krishnamurti was quite good. The personal meeting and the quotations make wholesome reading. Krishnamurti perhaps through his teachings has shown us what could be the only way to live on this beautiful earth. The divisions on account of religion, nationality, language and colour have destroyed human beings and still we are holding to them. Thanks for the nice article.
 
2.Now coming to the list of 100 great Tamils, it is heartening to see the name of Rajaji. He perhaps has done so much to the nation should be ranking first among 20th century Tamilians. In Kamaraj's words and in the words of Jaya Prakash Narayan 'Rajaji is next only to Gandhiji in his stature as national leader and in serving the nation". Periyar EVR called him 'the leader in every sphere of life he took part" and Kavignar Kannadasan called him "Desasththai Eerththa Thamizhan"
 
He pioneered the freedom movement. He was the only Tamilian among the 5 lieutenants of Gandhiji along with Nehru, Patel, Azad and Prasadh. He was the first to introduce prohibition. He was the first to admit Harijan boys into schools, he brought reservation for Scheduled Castes. He brought in "Aalaya Praevesa Chattam" which enabled Dalits to enter Temples. He was the first and last Governor General of Free India. He was Gandhiji's conscience keeper. His short stories are world class. His rendering of Ramayana and Maha Bharatha into Tamil are treasures. His 'Kurai Ondrum Illai" rings in every music hall today.

Rajaji introduced Hindi but he was the tallest of Tamil Leaders while opposing Hindi logically, risking his popularity in North India. His new education scheme would have brought respect to manual labour and technical skill and we would be having world class technicians, engineers, agriculturists. When he was living,  he was living like as saint and nobody perhaps except V.O.Chidambaram Pillai would have sacrificed as much for the freedom movement. Dr Ambedkar respected him and wanted him to become the President. He could not become the President of India because he was a Tamilian.
 
The false propaganda by DK and DMK is now taken as true history and some of your participants have hurled abuse against Rajaji and wanted to remove him from the list. If they go through the events of 19th and 20th century dispassionately they will know why Gandhiji, Nehruji, Kamaraj, JP, EVR and Annadorai respected Rajaji.
 
In my view anyone who speaks Tamil at home and outside, or any one who speaks Tamil at home at least, any one whose forefathers hail from Tamilnadu (and who still considers himself as only Tamil) are "Senthamilars" and any one who lives in Tamilnadu and speaks Tamil at least outside home and considers himself a Tamil  is a "Desiya Tamil", and all these people are Tamils. For a fuller explanation you may kindly refer to Jayakanthan's writings.
 
If you accept the British and Christian missionary's Aryan invasion theory and exclude Brahmins from Tamils, it will be a Himalayan blunder first because it is not the truth; secondly because you will have to miss the glories of Tamils such as Agasthiyar, TholKappiyar, Kapilar, to U.Ve Sa., Bharathi, RAjaji, Ramanujam, C.V.Raman, Vishwanathan Anand and scores of others.

No one community can be excluded because every community has contributed to the glory of our Tamil language and nationhood. Only  a divisive mentality has kept the Tamils at the receiving end in many places and we have not got our share in anything which we deserve on account of our potential. The Bengalis are all over. They do not exclude Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Ravindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra, Uttam Kumar, Buddadeb Battacharya, Mamta Banerjee, Somnath Chaterjee, to Sourav Ganguly because they are Brahmins. For them they are Bengalis and only Bengalis.
 
"Ondru Pattaal Undu Vaazhve; Nammil otrumai Neengidil anaivarkkum Thaazhve!
Nandridhu therndidal vendum; Indha gnanam vndhaal pin namakkedhu vendum"

Response by tamilnation.org  We thank you for your comments, Mikka Nanri. We do agree with your view that  "no one community can be excluded because every community has contributed to the glory of our Tamil language and nationhood." Please see also Caste & the Tamil Nation - Dalits, Brahmins & Non Brahmins  and  comment by Dr.S.Ranganathan and Response by tamilnation.org, June 2006

From: Dr.S.Sampanthar, United Kingdom, 26 June 2007

I found the book * Half of a Yellow Sun, a novel based on the Biafran war of 1967/70 by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, winner of a literary prize very moving.

Response by tamilnation.org  We have some understanding as to why the book did touch you - as indeed it will many Tamils from Tamil Eelam. The book note by the The New Yorker (Copyright © 2006)  at Amazon.com is moving: "Based loosely on political events in nineteen-sixties Nigeria, this novel focusses on two wealthy Igbo sisters, Olanna and Kainene, who drift apart as the newly independent nation struggles to remain unified. Olanna falls for an imperious academic whose political convictions mask his personal weaknesses; meanwhile, Kainene becomes involved with a shy, studious British expat. After a series of massacres targeting the Igbo people, the carefully genteel world of the two couples disintegrates. Adichie indicts the outside world for its indifference and probes the arrogance and ignorance that perpetuated the conflict. Yet this is no polemic. The characters and landscape are vividly painted, and details are often used to heartbreaking effect: soldiers, waiting to be armed, clutch sticks carved into the shape of rifles; an Igbo mother, in flight from a massacre, carries her daughter's severed head, the hair lovingly braided."

From: A Visitor from the USA, 10 June 2007

Re the Sunday Leader Editorial of 10 June 2007 which I append hereto, we appear to have at last a Sinhalese to have the guts to call a spade a spade. But my question is where was he when all this was happening? Is it just political compulsion – his hatred for the Rajapakses and his love for Ranil Wickremasinghe?

Response by tamilnation.org  No, it is not a matter of hatred for Rajapakse and love for Ranil.  It is more than that. The international community is concerned that President Rajapakse's action will strengthen the determination of the people of Tamil Eelam to be free from Sinhala rule. The international community is also concerned with the China ward tilt of the Rajapakse government. Sanmugam Sabesan said it right when he wrote in வலியப்போய் ஏமாறுபவர்களும், துணிந்து வந்து ஏமாற்றுபவர்களும் on 15 May 2007 -

"..The international community is concerned to secure a peace in the island of Sri Lanka which will advance their own political, economic and strategic interests. .. The international community seeks a peace, which even though it does not resolve the basic issues of the Tamil struggle, is sufficient to deceive the Tamil people into thinking that it has - this is the position of the international community..."

We have been there before with the comic opera of the 13th amendment which had the blessings of both the international community and India. It was an amendment introduced by a UNP government with Ranil Wickremasinghe as a Cabinet Minister and his uncle as its head. There was a piece written by a Tamil expatriate in the US many years ago. It was entitled Bait & Switch. Here the bait is the SLFP (District Council) proposals (which makes everybody angry) and the switch is the toothless (and even watered down) Vitharne proposals. Velupillai Thangavelu was right to point out in Ranil Wickremasinghe & the UNP on 8 June 2007 -

" (In January 2002)... Prime Minister (Ranil Wikremasinghe said)  'We have never accepted the homeland concept... the homeland concept will never be accepted...We have always clearly expressed our stand on this issue.' ... I reiterate what I have been saying for many years - it is slow death or death in instalments for Thamils under the UNP. The SLFP is an open enemy. Mahinda Rajapakse as president is unwittingly helping the division of the country as today's expulsion of hundreds of Thamils from Colombo to North and East shows."

Barry Gardiner, UK Member of Parliament spelt out the Ranil Wickremasinghe approach to the resolution of the conflict when he wrote on 2 January 2007 in Anton Balasingham: Chief negotiator for the Tamil Tigers -

"I recall telling Bala (Anton Balasingham)  a year before of (Ranil) Wickremasinghe's boast to me: 'They (LTTE) want government? I'll bog them down with government.'

The Ranil Wickremasinghe approach was to deny the existence of a Tamil homeland, and use the so called 'international safety net' to 'bog down' the Tamil Eelam liberation movement. The Sunday Leader’s real concern is that Rajapakse's actions and the failure to adopt 'the Ranil Wickremasinghe approach' have together combined to bring Tamil Eelam closer. The give away is that for the Sunday Leader, even at this time, the LTTE continue to be a 'bunch of terrorists'.  Here, the Sunday Leader may usefully pay attention to the words of Jeff Sluka   –

"... National liberation movements are not the activities of small groups of isolated individuals, though state authorities opposed to them frequently describe them as such for propaganda purposes. They are the struggle of rebellious nations against foreign invaders .. To understand armed national liberation movements, it is necessary to strip away the camouflage terms and explanations that states use to hide their true nature... Instead of identifying them as patriots or freedom fighters battling oppression and injustice and seeking the liberation of their people, they usually refer to them as "terrorists." Every nation people that has resisted state domination or invasion has been accused of being terrorists. But armed national self-preservation or self-defense is not "terrorism" or "banditry"...  oppressed people are not socially stupid even when they are poor, hungry, or uneducated. They understand only too well the social, political, and economic conditions of their lives, and, when the possibility to do so presents itself, they are prepared to act to improve those conditions. National liberation movements are one of the most significant ways people do this..."

The Sunday Leader is concerned that the actions of the Rajapakse brothers will render the search for 'Moderate Tamils' futile. But it would have its readers ignore the fact that it was after all a 'Moderate Tamil' S.J.V.Chelvanayagam Q.C. who declared to his people more than thirty years ago -

"We have for the last 25 years made every effort to secure our political rights on the basis of equality with the Sinhalese in a united Ceylon. It is a regrettable fact that successive Sinhalese governments have used the power that flows from independence to deny us our fundamental rights and reduce us to the position of a subject people. These governments have been able to do so only by using against the Tamils the sovereignty common to the Sinhalese and the Tamils. I wish to announce to my people and to the country that I consider the verdict at this election as a mandate that the Tamil Eelam nation should exercise the sovereignty already vested in the Tamil people and become free."

And for the Sunday Leader it all started with the SLFP Sinhala Only Act in 1956. The Sunday Leader would have its readers ignore the systematic colonisation of the Tamil homeland by UNP Prime Ministers from D.S. Senanayake onwards, the disenfranchisement of the Plantation Tamils in 1948 and the imposition of the Sinhala Lion flag in 1951.

 

The Sunday Leader is right to conclude that the pain that the Tamil people have suffered and continue to suffer has served only to consolidate their determination to be free from alien Sinhala rule. But it is not enough to decry the actions of the Rajapakse brothers. The Rajapakse brothers are doing nothing which the K.M.P.Rajaratnes, the Bandaranaikes, the J.R.Jayawardenes, the Cyril Mathews and a host of others have not done in the pastdisappearances & extra judicial killingsrape & murdertorture, war crimes,  impunity and censorship, disinformation & murder of journalists. And the 1983 attack on the Tamil people was presided over by a UNP Cabinet which included Ranil Wickremasinghe as an influential member - and the United National Party has yet to accept responsibility for the gruesome attacks on the Tamils in Colombo in July and August 1983.

 

That which the Sunday Leader signally failed to do was to openly state that the solution to the conflict lies in the recognition of the Tamil homeland.  That which the Sunday Leader signally failed to do was to openly state that the solution lies in the creation of an independent Tamil Eelam which may then negotiate with Sri Lanka, the terms on which two independent states may associate with one another in equality and in freedom.


And Then They Came For me - Sunday Leader Editorial June 10, 2007

Secular Sinhalese hung their heads in shame last week as government storm-troopers rounded up the Tamil citizenry of Colombo and herded them into busses, to be taken to God knows where. Young and old, shy and bold, they were equally affected: no one was spared. Grandmothers separated from their grandchildren, sisters separated from their brothers, diabetics separated from their insulin. In scenes reminiscent of the Final Solution, the Mahinda Chinthanaya swung into action, leaving no one in doubt that Sri Lanka’s is a government of the racists, by the racists, for the racists. It is but a short step from here to requiring Tamils to wear a mandatory arm-band with a ‘T’ (in black, of course) emblazoned on it.

No one knows how many Tamil people were bussed out of Colombo last Thursday. Guesstimates varied from 200 to 800. The government, however, made it known that “20,000 Tamils have taken up lodgings in Colombo”, a clear signal that more is to come unless the justices of the Supreme Court (bless their hearts) continue to step in and stop it. The government’s claims that the deportees had always wanted to return to wherever it was they had come from, but could never find the bus fare, brings to mind the picture painted by the Third Reich, of Jews stepping voluntarily into the gas chambers of Buchenwald and Auschwitz, arm in arm, gaily whistling Hava Nagila.

In a sense, last Thursday must have come as a relief to Sri Lanka’s minorities. The state has now shorn off its whiskers and made it patently clear that this is no longer a battle against the LTTE, or even against terrorism: it is a battle against Tamils. Ethnic cleansing has begun, and no Sinhalese can be safe until the last Tamil has been evicted from their midst.

For its part, the Rajapakse Administration, having hidden behind a variety of colourful euphemisms all this while, has finally come out in the open, calling a spade a spade, a Tamil a Tamil: the Sinhala nation can never be safe until the Tamils in its midst have been evicted. In doing so, and deporting Colombo’s Tamils thence, Rajapakse has finally accepted the reality of Eelam, a Tamil homeland in the north and east. It defies irony that the first seed of Tamil secession has been sown not by Pirapaharan, but by Rajapakse. Little must Rajapakse realise that the insult and humiliation he cast on those citizens (most of who, no doubt, refrained from voting in the last presidential election so as to secure his victory), would not lightly be forgiven or forgotten. They aren’t likely to turn the other cheek. No one would be surprised if many of them would in time to come number among the LTTE’s suicide cadres, determined to get even with the Sinhalese. In a move of almost touching imbecility, the government has given the cause of terrorism an unprecedented shot in the arm.

It is only a sick and cynical society that can countenance so brazen an assault on human rights and look the other way. It is gratifying that all Sri Lanka’s political parties, barring the SLFP, JHU and CWC, vociferously opposed Rajapakse’s action. No one knows what brand of Buddhism it is that the monks of the Urumaya profess to follow, but it is evident from their action that it is not that advocated by the Gautama Buddha. The CWC’s silence, however, is more ominous; evidently a signal that it’s leadership wishes to distance itself from the cause of Tamil emancipation as a whole. After all, if the upcountry Tamils were to be emancipated, they’d be out of a job.

The past two years have seen Sri Lanka slipping inexorably into an abyss of intolerance. There is about the Rajapakse administration a sick and fathomless cynicism to which we run the danger of becoming inured: blatantly false propaganda in the state media; intimidation of the free media; widespread abductions, disappearances and murders with nonchalance bordering on the blas‚. So accustomed are we to this, that we are no longer shocked by any of it. We take it in our stride. In doing so, however, we need to remember that each blow the Rajapakse Brothers deal on secularism and liberal values is a blow against each one of us individually. Our turn - your turn - will come. And when it does come, who will speak for you?

Last Thursday’s events bring to mind the words of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller, who in his youth was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Adolf Hitler. As the Nazi grasp on Germany tightened in the 1930s, however, Niem”ller finally saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler had it in for, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. His poignant pose-poem appeals to those of us who might think that just as the Rajapakse Brothers came for the Tamils of Colombo last Thursday, they are unlikely ever to come for us:

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

There are those among the Sinhalese who see the Tamil question in terms of a military victory against the LTTE. It defies reason as to how soon they have erased from their minds our post-independence history. Even the JVP accepts that we must accept the Tamils of this country as equal citizens: they have as much historic right to this land as the Sinhalese. From even before independence, however, the Tamils quite sensibly asked that the Tamil language be given parity with Sinhala, and that the areas in which Tamil was the predominant language spoken be administered in Tamil. Then, in 1956, just eight years after independence, the Sinhalese majority fired the first shot, making Sinhala the official language of the state, brushing aside the strenuous objections of the Tamils.

The passage of the Official Languages Act by the S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike Government in 1956 was greeted with horror and shrieks of protest by the Tamils, who were powerless to resist, given that they were politically a minority. They were, however, deeply wounded, evoking in the pen of one contemporary critic of the Act the words of the poet John Dryden:

I’m a little wounded but I’m not slain;
I will lay me down for to bleed awhile,
Then I’ll rise and fight with you again.

And it is that prophesy that we are living today. Deporting Tamils from Colombo is not a solution to the problem of Tamil militancy: it is yet another cause of it. But then again, it seems unlikely that the works of the poet Dryden adorn the bookshelves of Temple Trees.

From 1956, the slide into the abyss was both steady and inexorable. The Sinhala alphabet was introduced for car number-plates, the national anthem was to be sung only in Sinhala, the country’s name was changed to the Sinhala name (in law, even when spoken or written in Tamil) and, in a bizarre diversion from secularity, Buddhism was awarded constitutional precedence (”the foremost place”) over any religions Tamils might choose to espouse. So effective were these devices in achieving their aims that Tamils were almost totally purged from the armed forces and reduced to trivial minorities in the police and government service. Added to all that were the anti-Tamil pogroms of 1958 and 1983, in which Tamils were burnt alive, their shops and homes looted, and the Tamils finally recognised the impossibility of peaceful cohabitation with the Sinhalese.

Sinhalese people who laugh these off as trivial pinpricks should imagine what life would be like were the tables turned. What if the official language of Sri Lanka were Tamil - together with the national anthem, car number plates etc.? What if Hinduism was constitutionally recognised as having “the foremost place” in our state? What if every time you were stopped by a policeman, he addressed you only in Tamil? How long would you tolerate that before you looked to extreme remedies?

What messages were the Tamils supposed to derive from this systematic assault on their heritage? They, after all, saw themselves as having an equal right to be Sri Lankan (or at any rate, Ceylonese), as the Sinhalese. For 30 years - a generation - from 1948 to 1977, fought for their rights through purely political means. But the Sinhalese just did not listen and things got steadily worse, with, for example, J. R. Jayewardene’s infamous Constitution of 1978 and before that of Colvin R.De Silva in 1972. Then, slowly, a minority of Tamils concluded that parleying with the Sinhalese was futile, and took to arms. It was the wrong thing to do - but then again, it was the only thing they could do to try to get the attention of the Sinhalese government. Then, when they did that, rather than recognise the frustration of the Tamil minority, successive Sri Lankan governments chose to respond with a bullet for a bullet.

In the last couple of years we have taken to bombing the villages in the north that are thought to harbour Tigers. One rarely meets a Sri Lankan, however, who sees how utterly bizarre this is - bombing your own people. When the JVP attacked Colombo, did the air force bomb Akuressa and Hambantota, its strongholds? What would people think of a government that bombed Sinhalese? Yet, the Tamils are bombed daily as a matter of routine, and not one Sinhala voice of protest, be it ever so small, is heard. Now we seem slowly to be discovering that there simply are too many dissident Tamils (= ‘terrorists’) to kill: we are deporting them back to their homeland.

Tragically for Sri Lanka, the Rajapakse Brothers have neither the collective wit nor the wisdom - there isn’t, after all, a university degree among them - to see the struggle for Tamil emancipation for what it is. Even if they did, so steeped in Sinhala-Buddhist dogma are they that they could never bring themselves to undo the original wrongs that gave aid and succour to the cause of Tamil militancy from 1956 to 1978.

Terrorism is horribly wrong, and there is no gainsaying that the LTTE are a bunch of terrorists. Moderate Tamils - if there could persist such a breed after the events of last Thursday - may believe there is yet hope. But they are a minority within a minority, and for fear of the Tigers, for the most part mute. Thanks to Sinhala intransigence, it is only the LTTE that is left to negotiate with us.

And it is time those Tamils and members of other minorities who sit on the government benches in parliament searched their souls for their reasons for doing so. What truck do they have with an administration such as that presided over by the Rajapakses? For their part, the Rajapakse Brothers need even now to recognise that Tamil liberation is not a question of law-and-order: it is a profoundly political issue that demands calm, mature reason and a genuine embracing of democratic values. By adopting the gehuwoth gahannan (if you hit, then I’ll hit) attitude he publicly espouses, Rajapakse, as he has done from the beginning of his presidency, is simply missing the plot.

From: Kenneth Welsh, USA 19 March 2007

Freedom is a matter of CHOICE. We, the international community have seen people of the little tiny nation of East Timor go FREE from Indonesia; Bosnia go FREE from Yugoslavia/Serbia; Eritrea go FREE from Ethiopia. Now the time has come for the Tamil people of NorthEast Sri Lanka (Ceylon) to go FREE. Let us not forget the famous saying William Jennings Bryan, Nebraska’s well-known statesman and politician - 'Destiny is not a matter of chance - it is a matter of CHOICE - it is not a thing to be waited for- it is is a thing to be achieved."  Let the Tamil people fight to FREE from the authoritarian-military-junta-style of  the ethnic majority of Sinhalese people.

From: A Visitor from USA, 18 March 2007

Hard Talk & Kathir

I like what you have done with Kathir’s letter to tamilnation.org. To me tamilnation.org comments were very educational and thought provoking, including all the links. I hadn’t seen Reuban Nanthakumar’s article before. It is indeed well researched and well written...  I read a lot these days, but I am not sure if it is making me any wiser. The world seems static, with people (and governments) doing the exact same things over and over again, from the times of the Greeks and the Romans! Bushism is a perfect example.

Response by tamilnation.org   We agree with you that the “ The world seems static, with people (and governments) doing the exact same things over and over again, from times of the Greeks and the Romans!”. But, it may be that it only seems to be so. We comfort ourselves in the belief that we have evolved from matter to life to mind and there is nothing to suggest that evolution stops there – it is a continuing process. And if life was involved in matter and mind involved in life, may be there is already involved in mind, something more. Be that as it may, we believe there is emerging a critical mass of people in many parts of the world who are asking similar questions. Hopefully the views of persons such as Margaret Wheatley will gain increasing acceptance -

"..For many years, I’ve been interested in seeing the world differently. I’ve wanted to see beyond the Western, mechanical view of the world and see what else might appear when the lens was changed. I’ve learned, just as Joel Barker predicted when he introduced us to paradigms years ago, that "problems that are impossible to solve with one paradigm may be easily solved with a different one... Leaders are those who help others..

... We are all leaders, even without that formal title. We are in communities, governments, corporations, schools, universities, churches, non-profits, NGOs, healthcare. We are very diverse, yet our values unite us: We rely on human goodness. We depend on diversity. We trust in life's capacity to self-organize in sustainable, generous, and interdependent ways. We live in many different cultures and nations, and we express these values in wonderfully diverse ways. Yet we each serve the vision of a world where people can experience themselves as whole, healthy, sacred, and free. In all our different activities, we want to liberate the creativity and caring that are common to all people..."

And how do we secure that leaders who truly serve will emerge? It seems to us that Dee Hock, CEO Emeritius of Visa International was right when he said -

"We live in extraordinary times. Around the world we face systemic and deep-seated challenges in virtually every field. At the same time, in part because of these challenges, we are coming to see ourselves, one another, and our home planet in new ways. We have an unprecedented opportunity to realize age-old dreams of abundance and recreate our institutions in the service of all humanity and life....A vital question is how to insure that those who lead are constructive, ethical, open, and honest. The answer is to follow those who behave in that manner. It comes down to both individual and collective sense of where and how people choose to be led. In a very real sense, followers lead by choosing where to be led. Where an organizational community will be led is inseparable from the shared values and beliefs of its members..." (Dee Hock - The Art of Chaordic Leadership)

Perhaps, Thangathurai said it all in 1983

You must not run away with the thought that our sole objective is to establish Tamil Eelam. Tamil Eelam certainly remains an objective because we have learnt through bitter experience over the past several years that it is only by establishing a State of Tamil Eelam can Tamils live with self respect.

But our vision is broader than that. Our vision is global. Wherever there is oppression, wherever there is violation of human dignity, whether in Africa or in Latin America, we are prepared to link hands with the oppressed and the under dog. When our vision is so global how can it fail to take into account the future good of the Sinhala people?

May I mention this. We will not stop at raising our voices on behalf of those people. There is nothing that prevents two neighbouring nations living in co-operation. Even nations with differing policies get together for common economic good and for the purpose of common security. Does that mean that those nations give up their distinctive characteristics or sovereignty?

We have to safeguard the collective good of this island. If at any time in the future a common organisation has to emerge which could withstand the political and economic onslaught made against third world countries particularly in the areas surrounding the Indian sub continent, you can be sure that Tamil Eelam will rise to lend its might in all co-operative endeavours that will raise the quality of life of the people of this part of the world.”

From: R.S.Kathir, USA 17 March 2007

Dear TamilNation:

I just got a call from a British (White) friend, whom I had befriended back in the seventies when I used to live in England. He asked: “What the BLOODY HELL is going on there in your country; I thought you were the BAD GUYS!” 

 

He had just seen BBC’s “Hard Talk” program with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bollogama. Fortunately, the Tamil Canadian had a link to this BBC interview, and I too was able to watch it. I didn’t think that it was anything different from what has been going on in Sri Lanka for the last 20 years – the government there (GoSL) putting a positive twist to everything, and the Tamils continuing to suffer at the hands of the Sri Lankan Army (SLA).

So I called my British friend back, and he said that despite what I had told him about Sri Lanka, he had until now believed what the British press has been saying. To him despite our friendship, what he had heard from the British Press and the British Government was more believable! Now, after this interview, he seemed to have a different take on this. He sounded confused.He asked “Is it true that” there are 200,000 civilians displaced from their homes (by the SL army actions)?”

I explained that it is true, and that this all happened after the new President was elected in November 2005.

Then he asked: “Is it true that 20,000 refugees went to India by boat, and some had drowned on the way?”

The questions went on and on, and I had to say ‘yes’ to every one of them.

 

“3,000 Tamil civilians killed (by the SL army)?” Yes!
“There are aerial bombings of (Tamil) civilians?” Yes!
“The Government (GoSL) is collaborating with a paramilitary group to recruit child-soldiers?” Yes!
“Government soldiers murdered (International) NGO employees?” Yes!

These questions went on and on.

I had to finally say to him, ‘Go Google’ on ‘Sri Lanka Human Rights Violations’, or visit the Human Rights Watch or the Amnesty International websites. Or, look at www.tamilnation.org/indictment/index.htm

He said he will do. I just felt the need to report this to you. Hopefully, many more British people have watched the program, and learned more about the events in Sri Lanka.

 

Comment by tamilnation.org That BBC's Hard Talk with Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Rohitha Bollogama has opened the mind of Kathir's British (White) friend to the truth is welcome. And BBC Allan Little's comparison of the President Rajapakse regime to that of Pincochet of Chile was telling. Having said we may need to remind ourselves of the not so independent role played by the BBC in relation to the conflict in the island - one instance  that comes to mind is the well researched study by Reuben Nanthakumar in BBC and its Flirtations with Sri Lankan Propaganda. Again, when Pincochet was in power he had the fulsome support of both the United States and the UK establishment. Pinochet had after all overthrown the left leaning Allende. At that time, Pinochet may have been an 'abductor' but for both US and UK he was 'our' abductor. 'Concern' for the human rights of the Chilean people did not prevent US and UK giving wholehearted support for the Pinochet regime.

 

Today, many may take the view that the hard talk that Sri Lanka Foreign Minister Rohitha Bollogama was subjected to had more to do with UK foreign policy and with applying pressure on Sri Lanka to move away from China (a la Hambantota etc) than with concern about human rights and the plight of the Tamil people.  It may also have had something to do with the British way of annihilating guerrilla resistance as exemplified in the works of Robert Thompson. [see also Sri Lanka's UnwinnableWar, 1993]

 

The BBC was careful to avoid any statement even remotely suggesting support for the Tamil struggle for freedom from alien Sinhala rule. During the past several years, the international community has not been slow to repeat ad nauseam the phrase 'legitimate aspirations of the Tamil people' but they have been reluctant to recognise the aspirations of the Tamil people as expressed by Gandhian Tamil leader S.J.V.Chelvanayagam and later freely expressed at the General Election in 1977 as 'legitimate'.  They refuse to recognise the truth of that which Yelena Bonner (widow of Andrei Sakharov) said

 "The inviolability of a country's borders against invasion from the outside must be clearly separated from the right to statehood of any people within a state's borders."

They refuse to recognise the truth not because they have been misled or that they do not see that which stares them in their faces. They refuse to recognise the truth because the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region is a matter of critical importance for all three major players - US, India and China, with supporting roles for UK, European Union, Pakistan and others. It will be futile to believe that the UK and the UK establishment will be moved to act against that which they perceive to be their strategic interests. The way forward is to make these strategic interests  transparent and open them out for dialogue and discussion - and here the BBC may hopefully play an useful role.  At the same time, we may want to remind ourselves of something which Robert Parry said in Price of the 'Liberal Media' Myth in 2003 -

"The notion of a “liberal” national news media is one of the most enduring and influential political myths...the larger fallacy of the “liberal media” argument is the idea that reporters and mid-level editors set the editorial agenda at their news organizations. In reality, most journalists have about as much say over what is presented by newspapers and TV news programs as factory workers and foremen have over what a factory manufactures. That is not to say factory workers have no input in their company’s product: they can make suggestions and ensure the product is professionally built. But top executives have a much bigger say in what gets produced and how. The news business is essentially the same... Some concessions are made to the broader professional standards of journalism, such as the principles of objectivity and fairness. But media owners historically have enforced their political views and other preferences by installing senior editors whose careers depend on delivering a news product that fits with the owner’s prejudices. Mid-level editors and reporters who stray too far from the prescribed path can expect to be demoted or fired. Editorial employees intuitively understand the career risks of going beyond the boundaries..."

The BBC is an 'Independent' Corporation whose Board is appointed by the UK Government and whose funding is heavily dependent on UK Government policy.

From: Revd.B J Alexander [chandialec@blueyonder.co.uk ] 25 January 2007

On Human Shields

"...The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population, in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population..."

The above quote inspite of its moral bankruptcy fails to answer the question of the human shield. Here is a quote from the Bilateral Donors' Report released on Wednesday:

" A special security concern, also hampering humanitarian efforts in the districts, is the report that the parties to the conflict might be using civilians and civilian installations as shields. For example, the civilian and IDP population in Vaharai is generally believed to be used by the LTTE as a human shield against SLAF and Karuna operations. In the same way, SLAF and Karuna camps tend to be located in the middle of urban or otherwise populous areas, bringing military activity dangerously close to IDP camps and civilian areas."

The report was compiled by the embassies of the donor countries in Sri Lanka on the basis of discussions with field workers, both governmental and non-governmental. Let's walk in the moccasins of Vaharai Tamils before we philosophise in our own safety nets."

Response by tamilnation.org

Several matters arise in the comments made by Rev.B.J.Alexander. And we propose to address each of them in turn.

The first is Rev.Alexander's reference to the Regis Debray quote in our comment in LTTE Avoids Battle of Attrition in the East - B.Raman on 25 January 2007. Rev. Alexander quotes a part of that quotation and concludes that it reflects a 'moral bankruptcy'. It is true that Regis Debray said that -

"...The guerrilla force is independent of the civilian population, in action as well as in military organisation; consequently it need not assume the direct defence of the peasant population..."

But Regis Debray goes on to explain why he says so and it would have been helpful if Rev Alexander had referred to the quote in full. -

"...The protection of the population depends on the progressive destruction of the enemy's military potential. It is relative to the overall balance of forces: the populace will be completely safe when the opposing forces are completely defeated....... By restricting itself to the task of protecting civilians or passive self-defence, the guerrilla unit ceases to be the vanguard of the people as a whole and deprives itself of a national perspective... By choosing to operate at this level, it may be able to provide protection for the population for a limited time. But in the long run the opposite is true: self-defence undermines the security of the civilian population.... limiting oneself to passive defence is to place oneself in the position of being unable to protect the population and to expose one's own forces to attrition. On the other hand, to seek for ways to attack the enemy is to put him on the permanent defensive to exhaust him and prevent him from expanding his activities, to wrest the initiative from him, and to impede his search operations..."

The point that Regis Debray sought to make was that a guerrilla movement, facing a vastly superior force in numbers as well as in arms and resources cannot survive if it resorts to the passive defence of a section of the people to whose liberation it is committed. The people will be protected only when the opposing forces are completely defeated. 'Surprise' and 'freedom of movement' are important resources for a guerrilla movement intent on keeping its enemy off balance.

The following note on Regis Debray is taken from the Wikipedia.

" In the 1960s Regis Debray was a professor of philosophy at the University of Havana, and a friend of Che Guevara as a young man in the 1960s. He later wrote a book entitled Revolution in the Revolution?. This book critiqued the tactical and strategic doctrines then prevailing among militant socialist movements in Latin America, and acted as a handbook for guerrilla warfare. When Guevara was captured in Bolivia, 1967, Debray (also in Bolivia at the time) was imprisoned, convicted of having been part of Guevara's guerrilla group and on November 17 sentenced to 30 years in prison, but was released in 1970 after an international campaign for his release which included Jean-Paul Sartre, André Malraux, Général De Gaulle and Pope Paul VI. He sought refuge in Chile, where he wrote The Chilean Revolution (1972) after interviews with Salvador Allende. Debray returned to France in 1973. Following the election of Président François Mitterrand, in 1981, he became an adviser of the Président on foreign affairs. In this capacity he developed a policy that sought to increase France's freedom of action in the world, decrease dependence on the United States, and promote closeness with the former colonies. "

We ourselves do not dismiss Regis Debray's analysis of the tactical and strategic doctrines of a guerrilla movement, as reflecting  'moral bankruptcy' or for that matter, as the musings of a philosopher removed from the reality on the ground. We prefer to regard Regis Debray's analysis as reflecting the deep insights he had gained by his intimate involvement both with Fidel Castro and Che Guevera.

The second matter to which we now turn is the matter of the 'human shield'. Revd.B J Alexander says that the 'Bilateral Donors' Report' makes allegations about the use of human shields by the LTTE. The Donor's Report says that

" the civilian and IDP population in Vaharai is generally believed to be used by the LTTE as a human shield against SLAF and Karuna operations.."

A preliminary question arises: 'generally believed' by whom? Did the Bilateral Donors themselves believe that  "the civilian and IDP population in Vaharai was used by the LTTE as a human shield against SLAF and Karuna operations"? If they did believe that, why did they not say so? Was it a matter of diplomacy or a matter of uncertainty?

Revd.Alexander points out that

"The report was compiled by the embassies of the donor countries in Sri Lanka on the basis of discussions with field workers, both governmental and non-governmental."

Who were these field workers? Who were the NGO's who were involved and which governments funded these NGO's? Again who were the 'governmental' field workers? From which governments did they come from? The lack of transparency concerning the interests that these 'field workers' (and those who employed them) sought to serve should lead us to adopt a cautious approach to the correctness (and impartiality) of such reports.

There may also be a need to examine the strategic interests of the embassies of the donor countries who 'compiled' the Report. These Bilateral Donors, may want us to believe that they are good Samaritans concerned simply to advance peace and secure justice. But are they? Or is it that these 'Bilateral Donors' are those who have for the past several years effectively funded Sri Lanka's war effort

Without foreign aid, Sri Lanka would not have been able to continue its genocidal war against the Tamil people - and it may well have found the need to talk with the people of Tamil Eelam on an equal basis and structure a polity where the two peoples, the Sinhala people and the Tamil people, may associate with each other  in equality and in freedom. And foreign aid has been forthcoming because each 'aid donor' is intent on securing its own strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region - and this is true, whether the aid donor is the US, the EUIndia,  Japan, or China.  And Sri Lanka has sought to use the political space provided by the countervailing strategic interests of the US, India and China in the Indian region (with supporting roles for Pakistan, European Union and Japan) to advance its own interests and acquire the military capability to subdue Tamil resistance to alien Sinhala rule.

Again, what do the Bilateral Donors mean when they refer to 'human shields' in the context of a guerrilla war?  The Donors Report expresses concern that LTTE camps 'tend to be located in the middle of urban or otherwise populous areas'. Here, a legitimate question that may be asked is: where is a guerrilla force supposed to locate its armed cadres? Is a guerrilla force supposed to locate its armed cadres in areas separated from the people so that it may function like 'fish' outside the 'sea' or amongst the civilian population who back them, so that it may then function as 'fish' in the 'sea'?

 Jean Paul Sartre's statement 'On Genocide' at the Second Session of the Bertrand Russell International War Crimes Tribunal on Vietnam, held in Denmark in November 1967 may be helpful -

 "...Against partisans backed by the entire population, colonial armies are helpless. They have only one way of escaping from the harassment which demoralizes them .... This is to eliminate the civilian population. As it is the unity of a whole people that is containing the conventional army, the only  anti-guerrilla strategy which will be effective is the destruction of that people, in other words, the civilians, women and children..."

If the guerrilla is the fish in the sea, then the anti guerrilla strategy is to drain the sea. During the past several decades, successive Sri Lanka governments have followed the strategy of 'draining the sea', and have deliberately directed their attacks on the Tamil civilian population.

They have done so with intent not simply to kill but also to terrorise those who they have failed to kill - terrorise them so that the Tamil people may submit to alien Sinhala rule, or become informers and collaborators or move into 'refugee camps'/'rehabilitation centres' in areas controlled by the Sinhala armed forces.

Having targeted Tamil civilians and terrorised them, Sri Lanka seeks to put a legal gloss on its actions by alleging that the dead were 'human shields'. Some years ago Tamil civilians who were killed by the Sri Lanka armed forces were allegedly caught "in the crossfire". The Chunnakam Massacre in 1984 was a case in point. Today, in the context of Sri Lanka's long range artillery attacks and aerial bombardments, the 'crossfire' cover up is no longer credible - hence 'human shields'.

The Bilateral Donors strive to lend an 'even handed feel' to their report by saying that "in the same way (as the LTTE), SLAF and Karuna camps tend to be located in the middle of urban or otherwise populous areas". Neither the SLAF nor the mercenary Karuna group are guerrillas. For the armed forces of a State to situate their camps in urban areas may well be an indication that they seek to use the civilian population as a 'human shield'. The 'even handed feel' that the Donors give to their report brings to mind  the words of Richard Swift in the New Internationalist, in Mind Games -

"The PR technique is simple enough: minimise the human rights abuses, talk about it as a 'complex' two sided story, play up efforts at reform... If possible, it is best to put these words in the mouth of some apparently 'neutral' group of 'concerned citizens', or a lofty institute with academic credentials." 

The Bilateral Donors may have enhanced their credibility if they had condemned the war crimes and the crimes against humanity committed by Sri Lanka President Rajapakse and the forces under his command. At the same time we recognise that they have not done so not because they support President Rajapakse. They have not done so because they would prefer to use the threat of doing so to influence President Rajapakse to toe the line of the so called international community in the Indian region. It is not that the Bilateral Donors are intent on furthering the interests of the Sinhala people. The Bilateral Donors are intent on using the conflict in the island to further neither the interests of the Tamil people nor the Sinhala people but to further their own interests in the context of the uneasy power balance in the Indian Ocean region.

The words of Sardar K.M.Pannikar, Indian Ambassador to China from 1948 to 1952, and later Vice Chancellor, Mysore University in Principles and Practice of Diplomacy, 1956 reminds us of some age old constants -

"Foreign Ministers and diplomats presumably understand the permanent interests of their country.. But no one can foresee clearly the effects of even very simple facts as they pertain to the future. The Rajah of Cochin who in his resentment against the Zamorin permitted the Portuguese to establish a trading station in his territories could not foresee that thereby he had introduced into India something which was to alter the course of history."

Surprising as it may seem to some, though we disagree with JVP on many matters, we do agree with the JVP in its stated policy of seeking to exclude and/or minimise the influence of foreign powers (whether they be from the West or the East) in the island.

The third matter to which we now turn is Revd. B J Alexander's invitation to 'walk in the moccasins of Vaharai Tamils before we philosophise in our own safety nets'. His invitation is understandable - and is perhaps a measure of his anguish. Karl Marx too expressed his irritation about philosophers when he remarked -

 "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however, is to change it" Theses on Feuerbach, 1845

This was not very different from that which Aurobindo said in Savitri -

"…truth and knowledge are an idle gleam,  if they do not bring power to change the world…" Sri Aurobindo

However, today, many may regard Aurobindo as a philosopher - and for that matter, Karl Marx as well. Philosophy is not without relevance - it may help us to get to the root of things. It may help us to see the wood for the trees. We need both the sharp focus and the flood light. Gramsci, the active Italian politician who played a leading role in  the Turin Factory Council Movement and the formation of the Italian Communist Party and who was imprisoned by Mussolini wrote in his Prison Notebooks -

'Man does not enter into relations with the natural world just by being himself part of it but actively by means of work and technique. Further, these relations are not mechanical. They are active and conscious... Each of us changes himself, modifies himself to the extent that he changes and modifies the complex relations of which he is the heart. In this sense, the real philosopher is, and cannot be other than the politician, the active man who modifies his environment, understanding by environment the ensemble of relations which each one of us enters to take part in it. If one's individuality is the ensemble of these relations, to create one's personality means to acquire consciousness of them, and to modify one's own personality means to modify the ensemble of these relations.'

Finally, we turn to 'safety nets' and  the role of the Tamil diaspora in relation to the freedom struggle of the people of Tamil Eelam. The jibe is sometimes made that living within the 'safety net' provided by the Governments of their host countries, the Tamil diaspora, by their actions are sending not their own children but other Tamil children in Tamil Eelam to death. It is true that the Tamil diaspora in whatever they say or do, should be mindful of the fact they themselves have chosen against putting their own lives on line on the ground. Here it may be helpful to revisit that which was said in Hypocrisy and Expatriate Tamils some nine years ago.

"It is true that hypocrisy in politics will not get us anywhere as a community... But, is it hypocrisy to support a struggle for freedom from alien rule, because you yourself have not taken up arms or because your children have not taken up arms?...

Does that mean that the thousands, in many parts of the world, who supported Vietnam's struggle against foreign occupation, were hypocrites? Or does that mean that they should have stayed silent whilst the Vietnam war and the carpet bombing by the US killed thousands of young Vietnamese and devastated acres of agricultural land - because their support may have prolonged Vietnamese resistance?

Or was it the fact that their support, strengthened Viet Nam resistance, and in this way brought the war to a quicker end - and saved lives and secured freedom?

Or to take a more recent example, does it mean that the millions who supported the struggle of Nelson Mandela against a racist regime in South Africa should have stayed silent unless they were willing to send their children to fight in South Africa?

.... there are thousands upon thousands of Tamils (in the diaspora) who have suffered in many ways for the stand that they have taken to openly support the struggle for Tamil Eelam - some have become asylum seekers and refugees to escape the wrath of the Sinhala government, others have had their families split and they live in many lands as wandering nomads... Each expatriate Tamil is an ambassador of the struggle for Tamil Eelam. Each one has something to contribute to that struggle, however small that contribution may appear to him to be. Support for the struggle will not prolong it - it will bring it to a quicker end and secure the freedom of a people. "

Mao Tse Tung said long years ago that an armed struggle is no afternoon tea party. And that statement remains true to this day. We may want to revisit Laws of Armed Conflict? What Laws?  and the words in the British Admiralty note, a hundred years ago in 1906 -

" It must not be forgotten that the object of war is to obtain peace as speedily as possible on one's own terms, and not the least efficacious means of producing this result is the infliction of loss and injury upon 'enemy' non-combatants...... The object of the bombardment of [commercial] towns might be the destruction of life and property, the enforcing of ransom, the creation of panic, and the hope of embarrassing the government of the enemy's country and exciting the population to bring pressure to bear upon their rulers to bring the war to a close....

Lastly, we have the case of bombardments intended to cover, or divert attention from, a landing. It is easy to conceive that a bombardment of this nature might involve undefended towns and villages, and it presents perhaps the most difficult case of all from a humanitarian point of view. At the same time, no Power could be expected to abstain from such an act of war, if it fell within their strategic plan.... It must come under the category of inevitable acts of war necessitated by overwhelming military considerations. We could not give up the right so to act, and we could not expect other nations to do so.'. . . "  (British Admiralty note on 'Naval Bombardment of Coast Towns' printed for the Committee of Imperial Defence in mid 1906, during the preparations for the following year's Hague Conference: continuation of CID paper 75B, in PRO, FO 88I/9328* II.)

It is also right that we attend to the words of  Harry L. Stimson, US Secretary of State 1929-1933 quoted, appropriately enough by Hitler's Arms Minister, Albert Speer in Inside the Third Reich -

 "...We must never forget, that under modern conditions of life, science and technology, all war has become greatly brutalized and that no one who joins in it, even in self-defence, can escape becoming also in a measure brutalized. Modern war cannot be limited in its destructive method and the inevitable debasement of all participants... we as well as our enemies have contributed to the proof that the central moral problem is war and not its methods..."

We need to hold the seeming opposites together and not ignore the warning by Rev. Martin Luther King in his Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963 -

"Over the past few years I have consistently preached that non-violence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends."

The attempt by one people to rule another is immoral. The continuing efforts of President Rajapakse and the so called international community (each in pursuit of its own ends) to perpetuate the rule of the people of Tamil Eelam by a permanent Sinhala majority within the confines of a single Sri Lankan  state is immoral.

We take comfort in the knowledge that the so called  'international community' represents but a few governments - though admittedly, they may have tremendous military and economic clout. We take comfort in the knowledge that this so called 'international community' does not represent the vast majority of the peoples of the world who are themselves struggling to be free from oppression. Marcus Aurelius was right to point out almost two thousand years ago -

"Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future, too."

The vision articulated by Mamanithar Nadarajah Thangathurai in a musty court house in Colombo on 1 March 1983 (three months before he was murdered by Sri Lanka authorities within the confines of a Sri Lankan jail) remains true 23 years later -

"... You must not run away with the thought that our sole objective is to establish Tamil Eelam. Tamil Eelam certainly remains an objective because we have learnt through bitter experience over the past several years that it is only by establishing a State of Tamil Eelam can Tamils live with self respect.

But our vision is broader than that. Our vision is global. Wherever there is oppression, wherever there is violation of human dignity, whether in Africa or in Latin America, we are prepared to link hands with the oppressed and the under dog. When our vision is so global how can it fail to take into account the future good of the Sinhala people?

May I mention this. We will not stop at raising our voices on behalf of those people. There is nothing that prevents two neighbouring nations living in co-operation. Even nations with differing policies get together for common economic good and for the purpose of common security. Does that mean that those nations give up their distinctive characteristics or sovereignty?

We have to safeguard the collective good of this island. If at any time in the future a common organisation has to emerge which could withstand the political and economic onslaught made against third world countries particularly in the areas surrounding the Indian sub continent, you can be sure that Tamil Eelam will rise to lend its might in all co-operative endeavours that will raise the quality of life of the people of this part of the world."

 

Tamil National Forum:| 2005 | 2004| 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998

Mail Us Copyright 1998/2007 All Rights Reserved Home