Ilankai Tamil Sangam

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Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Speck

by Roy Ratnavel, March 11, 2009

When respected leaders condemn Tamils, such admonitions are slowly becoming embedded in Western culture. That, in my opinion, means most of them, media and law enforcement included, are instinctively biased against the Tamil people. It's a disgusting spectacle, especially when you hear they say that by doing so they are defending democracy.

This bias currently exists in Western culture, and is clearly shown by the out-of-all-proportion outcry for Sri Lanka when violence occurs in Colombo, compared to the much more laid-back attitude toward other violent encounters throughout Northern Sri Lanka. Even the genocide of Tamils in North did not elicit anywhere near the articles of outrage here in the West that the attempted hit on the Sri Lankan cricket team can draw...

Debate on Sri Lanka has been heated ever since 9/11, but I have never seen the effort at demonizing and silencing critics of Sri Lanka that we have seen during these past few weeks...

We are – or ought to be – immune for life against the toxic ideology of “it is terrorism, unless committed by governments.” We must stand together with resolve with hand-in-hand, while cautiously optimistic about the prospects of peace for our people.

This past weekend I watched a movie with my little boy – based on the acclaimed 1954 book written by Dr. Seuss, named “Horton Hears a Who.”

The movie tells the story of Horton the Elephant, who hears a small speck of dust talking to him. It turns out the speck of dust is actually a tiny planet, home to a city called ‘‘Who-ville’’ in Jungle of Nool, inhabited by microscopic-sized inhabitants known as “Whos” seek the help of this elephant to protect them from harm. Though the elephant can’t see them, able to hear them quite well and happily agrees to do by proclaiming throughout the movie that ‘‘even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small’’.

In doing so he is ridiculed and forced into a cage by the other animals in the jungle for believing in something that they are unable to see or hear. Horton had many tormentors, the chief amongst them the Wickersham Monkey Brothers and the Sour Kangaroo.

The inspiration for this article and the title stems from this movie. The difference between the movie “Whos” in “Who-ville” and the real life “Whos” – innocent Tamils in Vanni, is that, the movie “Whos” lives weren’t jeopardized by toxic political ideology. And, the real life tormentors – the Rajapakse brothers – are much more evil than the Wickersham Brothers and the Sour Kangaroo.

Ideologies are often dangerous. An ideology is defined in dictionary as a set of aims and ideas, especially in politics. It can also be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things. The sad truth is, as human beings, most of us don’t object to slanted nature of ideologies because being told how to think is easier than figuring it out for ourselves. For example, in the early 1900s, Europe evolved in an ideology that grew out of Catholic teachings that deplored the Jews; which let to the genocide of Jews – Holocaust. The world paid a heavy price for such an ideology of hatred; and is still reeling in guilt for the indifference shown by politicians of the industrial era.

Now, in this modern information era there is another kind of hatred and indifference practiced around the world – mainly in the West. The majority of the politicians in the Western world are to some extent infected by the ‘war on terror’ ideology. With the help of this infection from the West, in Sri Lanka politicians are preaching to the masses of an ideology that subscribes to the destruction of Tamil lives and any Tamil lucky enough to escape should be driven from the land – a notion that is currently very popular.

That brings me to Western contempt for Tamils – once a creature of the extreme Sri Lankan elements, now has been embraced by the Western politicians. It is fashionable in this post 9/11 world. When respected leaders condemn Tamils, such admonitions are slowly becoming embedded in Western culture. That, in my opinion, means most of them, media and law enforcement included, are instinctively biased against the Tamil people. It's a disgusting spectacle, especially when you hear they say that by doing so they are defending democracy.

This bias currently exists in Western culture, and clearly shown by the out-of-all-proportion outcry for Sri Lanka when violence occurs in Colombo, compared to the much more laid-back attitude toward other violent encounters throughout Northern Sri Lanka. Even the genocide of Tamils in North did not elicit anywhere near the articles of outrage here in the West that the attempted hit on the Sri Lankan cricket team can draw.

The founding fathers of Western democracies would be rolling in their graves if they could know how ineffectively their successors engineered the West’s attitude toward the denial of freedom to a group of people. The words tattooed in their brain carry hate-filled memes go far beyond the imagination of noble democratic principles. People who drown in daily dosage of brain-occupying comfy thoughts, living far away from all conflicts are now passing judgment on Tamils, Tamil freedom struggle and create lots of trouble for Tamils who live in the horrible reality called “war.” It takes hard work to expunge from their brains the cultural sludge they carry against Tamils – a lifetime project for the Tamil Diaspora.

A tremendous effort is being currently made by Tamils to educate others about what they, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and former President Jimmy Carter consider as atrocities committed on Tamils by a ruthless, scurrilous state. As Tamils are involved in exposing this dangerous Sri Lankan political ideology – which is equivalent to an ‘affinity scam’ pulled off on the West, I've been horrified by the unjustified attacks by prominent politicians on Tamils.                        

Debate on Sri Lanka has been heated ever since 9/11, but I have never seen the effort at demonizing and silencing critics of Sri Lanka that we have seen during these past few weeks. What is objectionable with this is the terminology itself – ‘terrorism’ – which connotes the vitriolic hyperbole to which Tamils are constantly subjected to. What can it be but anti-Tamil feeling when refused to allow Tamils to have a forum to democratically display their discontent without being labeled ‘terror sympathizers.’

Prominent Western politicians with childish stance, holding personal grudges from the past, politicians of posturing and pandering tendencies, and politicians with a 'Pollyanna' view of the world, purely driven by a  ‘good guys, bad guys’ ideology of the new world order have Tamil blood on their hands, and they are complicit in the genocide of Tamils. There is no doubt about that. Yes, I said it! And, I meant it.

I have "never" seen it this bad on the "streets of Toronto and Canadian political discourse." What I did not see, and would never see, is even a mere press release by the government of the day condemning what we see today in Sri Lanka – Nazi-type atrocities committed on Tamils. Such silence is hypocrisy at its apogee. Tamils have become the Jews of the modern era.

As survivors of Sri Lankan atrocities, we certainly know the difference between constructive criticism and modern expressions of anti-Tamilsim. By suggesting terror images of Tamils, they try to delegitimize real concerns about atrocities committed by Sri Lanka on Tamils. Because of this hate-fest, so many Tamils no longer feel confident in these politicians' ability to speak for them, defend their loved ones in Vanni, and generally feel let down by the indifference they have been shown at a time of urgent need.

When survivors of Sri Lankan atrocities like myself came to Canada, we never dreamed our children and grandchildren would feel ignored just because they are Tamils. The West should understand our fear is anchored in reality and confront it for what it is, rather than what it is not.

With our past experience in Sri Lanka, we, more than most, understand the pain and suffering our people are currently experiencing as a result of this bogus war on terrorism. Frankly, anyone who tries to diminish the cries of "Tamils" on Canadian streets best look at his own motivations first.

Tamils will never get used to Canada’s disconnect between Sri Lankan reality and what masquerades as the ‘war on terror.’ On purely ethical and moral grounds, Canada should show its support of the Tamils’ plight. It is the only position that is consistent with its Canada’s democratic ideals.

Sri Lanka's cruelty against its own citizens then becomes proof not of the bankruptcy of its ideology but, rather, evidence of Canada's indifference on the matter. The worse Sri Lanka treats Tamils, the more it brings to question Canada's commitment to democracy and common decency.

Tamils have been judged unfairly, or been judged, too quickly. In a humble moment, we have come to realize who we are as people and gained a broader perspective on where we are going. We are not going to be intimidated, we are not going to be made to look like fools, and we will not be ignored. We are certainly not going to ignore the cries of our people from Vanni – and, we will speak truth to power. When should a particular “peoples'” indigenous placement on the Earth become official, and have unquestionable, unalienable right? At 15 years? 150 years? 1,500 years?

If these politicians do not think there is a link between Sri Lanka and the genocide of Tamils, they need look no further than the current desecration of the Tamil North. Is that war against terrorism or a war against Tamils? Despite recent bold moves by Sri Lanka to create Nazi-style “concentration camps,” and all those horrific pictures and videos that have emerged from Vanni, Tamils have yet to see any meaningful action by the diplomats and International Community – despite all our monumental efforts.

However, such inaction and silence is consistent with their past performance – Rwanda for example. That's typically how they do it. They come after the crimes have been committed. They toe-tag the victims and count the bodies and try to figure out who the criminals were after the fact – which does none of us any good.

There is a lesson in it for all of us Tamils. We do not have the luxury to differ, but we have the obligation to unite.  As Tamils abroad, we need to put our differences aside and unite in this grave hour of need as we witness the terror all around our people in Sri Lanka – and perhaps in us – as the Sri Lankan government beats the war drum. The next event-driven apocalypse du jour – and there will surely be one, and then another; however we have, once and for all, been inoculated against it. We are – or ought to be – immune for life against the toxic ideology of “it is terrorism, unless committed by governments.” We must stand together with resolve with hand-in-hand, while cautiously optimistic about the prospects of peace for our people.

We can’t see them, but we hear their cries for help from Vanni. We will not let our people be treated like an invisible speck of dust by the tormenting Rajapakse brothers' evil designs. We will not be caged and ridiculed by Sour Kangaroo – the West. We will be the Elephant of hope for our people in need by heeding to Horton’s maxim: ‘‘even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.’’ We will be the voice for the voiceless. We will prick that ideological bubble of the West so they can hear these cries for help.

We will keep chanting our freedom slogans. We will say it against all odds. We will say it against all ignorance, and arrogant powers. The time has come; so we will say it to anyone who will listen, to everyone who won’t listen, and – above all – to us, when no one will listen, until our loved once are speck no more!

roy_ratnavel@hotmail.com