TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM -
Chennai, 19 October 2007
On Rajaji & One Hundred Tamils of 20th Century
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
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
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
'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
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
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 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
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.
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.
rendering of that song. It is fortunate that her song may now be heard on video
in the world wide web [
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.
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
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
... 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
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...."
Chennai 16 July 2007
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.
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
Nehruji, Kamaraj, JP,
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
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,
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
by Dr.S.Ranganathan and
by tamilnation.org, June 2006
Dr.S.Sampanthar, United Kingdom, 26 June 2007
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."
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
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
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
துணிந்து வந்து ஏமாற்றுபவர்களும்
on 15 May 2007 -
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
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
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
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
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.
to his people more than thirty years ago -
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
the past - disappearances &
extra judicial killings, rape &
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
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 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
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.
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
the ethnic majority of Sinhalese people.
A Visitor from USA, 18 March
Hard Talk & Kathir
I like what you have
done with Kathir’s letter to
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
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..."
Hock - The Art of Chaordic Leadership)
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
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.”
R.S.Kathir, USA 17 March 2007
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
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
“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
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
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
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
Tamil leader S.J.V.Chelvanayagam and later
expressed at the General Election in 1977 as 'legitimate'. They
refuse to recognise the truth of that which Yelena Bonner (widow of Andrei
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
"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
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
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
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."
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
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 -
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
" 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
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
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?
"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
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
Without foreign aid, Sri Lanka would not have been able to continue its
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
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
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 -
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.
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
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
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
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
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
"Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various
ways, the point however, is to change it"
This was not very different from that which Aurobindo said in Savitri -
truth and knowledge are an idle
if they do not bring power to change the world
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
'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
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
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
"...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
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
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."