Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Because We Can

by J.T. Janani, Tamil Guardian, February 27, 2008

You have seen the blueprints for the development of Eelam, the plans for the industries which will be developed, the respect for the environment embedded in these plans, the role of the knowledge industries, the eagerly awaited return of the Diaspora...

They conveniently forget that through the fifties, sixties and seventies, generations of ‘moderate’ Tamils had already agitated and in 1977 even voted for independence – before the Tamil youth took up arms.

They tell us our hopes for Eelam are all false. Or unachievable. Or too costly...

[I]t is now time for the Tamil people to cash in their cheque, their promissory note of the right to self-rule at the bank of international justice.

Because we can. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

Imagine a country whose greatest asset truly is its people. A country in which over a third of its citizens speak fluently one or more of English, French, German, Spanish, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Dutch, Creole, Zulu and many more, in addition to speaking the worlds oldest living classical language, Tamil.

A country with one of the highest literacy rates in the world, which has for decades exported professionals – doctors, teachers, scientists, engineers, accountants, computer programmers - as far a-field as Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, much of Africa.

A country which is secular, but where learning is held to be sacred. You already know this country: this is Eelam.

Imagine a country whose unpolluted seas are a clear turquoise blue, lined with white sandy beaches, still unspoilt, whose skies take on the azure hues of the Indian sub continent, whose shore is lined with coconut palms, and tens of varieties of mango, guava and jack fruit. Imagine a country of rice fields and banana groves, chilli plants and hibiscus flowers, brimming with the lushness of the tropics, which even in places which are not naturally green has been made so by the industriousness of its people, its network of traditional water wells and irrigation channels.

You remember this country. It is Eelam.

Imagine a country, where unlike in all its neighbours, one cannot bribe one’s way past the traffic police or for that matter any government official. Where jobs are awarded on merit and not patronage. Where, unlike its neighbours, there is no sex tourism or porn industry. Where organised crime is not allowed to flourish.

Imagine a country with a written history of over 2000 years. Which predates the existence of the United States of America by over a thousand years. A country whose treatise on ethics, the Kural, declared circa 30 BC that “all men who live are alike at birth. Diverse actions define their distinction”, well before the American constitution came along to tell us that “all men are created equal”.

A country whose citizens’ attitude to unjust government is defined by that other phrase from the Kural: “more malicious than a professional murderer is a leader who rules his people with injustice and oppression”; a country, whose concept of justice and common law predates the arrival of the Romans in Britain.

A maritime, island society situated in the midst of strategic sea routes, which has assimilated and learnt from the waves of passing colonial powers – the Portuguese, the Dutch, the British and yes, even the Sinhalese. In short a country, which while nourished by the past can look confidently to a global future.

A global people. On a trip to the Vanni during the ceasefire, it was common to see, in a single guest-house, visiting Diaspora children playing together who spoke between them almost all the languages of Europe.

Although there are only a few hundred thousand Tamils in the UK, over one in fifty of every doctor in Britain’s National Health Service is Tamil. Across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, you find today that the Tamil community produces several times as many highly skilled professionals on a per capita basis than the national average.

You know the exceptional educational standards, the literacy levels achieved in the Tamil homelands before the Sinhalese sought to crush us by war. You know the economic standards that were achieved then and are possible in the future. You have seen the blueprints for the development of Eelam, the plans for the industries which will be developed, the respect for the environment embedded in these plans, the role of the knowledge industries, the eagerly awaited return of the Diaspora.

But the governments of Sri Lanka and their allies in the international order tell us something entirely different.

They give us instead their abhorrent and twisted version of the vision. They tell us that the East is liberated even as its people languish in endless refugee camps. They tell us Jaffna is liberated even while its citizens are crushed by an occupying army.

Recently, one “Sri Lanka expert” from a leading Bristish think tank and advisor to the British government, told a conference that the aspirations of the Tamil people were being met during the ceasefire because the A9 had been opened up and starvation warded off temporarily from Jaffna.

They tell us it is illegal and unconstitutional to talk of secession. Then they tell us it would be a bad example for neighbouring India. They say that it might not be good for global security, whatever that means in the killing fields of the Northeast. When all else fails, they wheel out the post 9-11 “T” word. They tell us we are extremists if we dare to speak of Eelam.

They tell us that the moderate Tamils of Sri Lanka have no wish to live in Eelam, but prefer instead their current conditions of Sinhala repression and hopelessness. They conveniently forget that through the fifties, sixties and seventies, generations of ‘moderate’ Tamils had already agitated and in 1977 even voted for independence – before the Tamil youth took up arms.

They tell us our hopes for Eelam are all false. Or unachievable. Or too costly.

They conjure up, as junior British foreign minister Kim Howells, did in last month’s British Parliamentary debate, a nightmarish rerun of the partition of India and Pakistan, forgetting how much of the responsibility for the failure of that partition must be laid at the door of the arrogant British civil servants who drew up the implementation for it.

It is time to tell the world, that they may not tell the Tamil nation what they want. They may not tell the Tamil people what our dreams and aspirations should be. They may not tell the Tamil people what to think.

It is time to tell them, that it is the Tamil people - not the policymakers in the capitals of the world – who decide how we give shape to our future, how we give life to our aspirations and how we ensure the survival of our nation.

It is simply time to tell them what we want. If they anticipate partition is difficult, it is time for them to take the steps now to plan a successful transition.

Because it is now time for the Tamil people to cash in their cheque, their promissory note of the right to self-rule at the bank of international justice.

Because we can. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

So make sure you spell out for them our dream in all its glory. And tell them, as the Vaddokodai Resolution urged us to three decades ago; we will not flinch till the sovereign state of Tamil Eelam is established.