Ilankai Tamil Sangam

24th Year on the Web

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

Reconciliation Devoid of Conciliation

Eelam Nation editorial, June 23, 2010

What is now happening in the north and the east in reality are a far cry from any reconciliation! The atrocities, the political, economic  and cultural oppression of the Tamil people by the military not permitting the Tamils to resettle in their homes on the pretext of  the lack of water facilities and electricity and the need to de- mine their own homes  are not without the blessings of the Rajapakse establishment. The deliberate naming of streets and villages only in the Sinhalese language is not without Rajapakse’s knowledge. The increasing militarization of the north and the east ruled over as a police State by the military amounts only to adding insult to an already devastated and traumatized people claimed to have been “liberated”, trying to retrace their bearings and heal their own wounds.

Since the year 1956 until the advent of Tamil militancy, the Tamil people had been surviving between race riots and as hostages of periodic violence sponsored by the Sri Lankan State.  Those who were lucky were able to flee to find refuge in their homelands in the north and the east but the more unfortunate living in the south had to face the wrath of rabid anti Tamil racism with many being massacred and their property destroyed. Thousands of victims went abroad abandoning their homeland and their way of life making up the critical mass of the Tamil Diasporas now scattered the world over. The atrocities upon them had a profound, lasting and often a ripple effect on their lives breaking up their family structures and their ethereal foundations. Very soon will come a time when a Tamil child in Denmark will not be able to communicate with their first cousin in England for Danish would be the only language that they could speak.

The term reconciliation used in calling the new commission namely the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission designed to deflect the allegations of war crimes and genocide by sections of the international community is a misnomer just as much as its motives are fraudulent.  However, the commission affords an opportunity to apologists of Sri Lankan war crimes and the racist war, like Akashi from Japan and others who frequently enjoy the lavish hospitality of the Sri Lankan  government  to hang on to it in defence of its war crimes and human rights abuses. Indeed, Akashi would be familiar with the manner that the Japanese treated their prisoners of war during the Second World War but certainly not the abhorrent massacres of non combatant civilians who were citizens of his own country if there were any or for that matter in any other country.  We are glad that the term Truth is not part of what the commission would be called as originally intended for the Sri Lankan State is incapable of the truth.

After Sri Lanka gained independence in 1948 no conciliatory measures were taken by the Sinhala leadership to treat the Tamils as an integral part of a Sri Lankan nation. Guided by xenophobic fears, considerations of racism, and unfounded mistrust, the Sinhala body politic through its majoritarian politics offering the semblance of democracy went on to alienate the Tamil people not only through discrimination but also by the use of periodic violence against them emanating even from parliamentary debate inciting violence against  them. Every effort of conciliation between responsible Sinhalese and Tamil leaderships was thwarted by violence engineered by the Sinhala polity unleashed on the Tamil people forcing them to abandon any hope of conciliation thus rendering the need in the minds of the Tamils by the 1970s that they should revert to being a separate nation distinguished by their culture, status quo ante 1833.

What is now happening in the north and the east in reality are a far cry from any reconciliation! The atrocities, the political, economic  and cultural oppression of the Tamil people by the military not permitting the Tamils to resettle in their homes on the pretext of  the lack of water facilities and electricity and the need to de- mine their own homes  are not without the blessings of the Rajapakse establishment. The deliberate naming of streets and villages only in the Sinhalese language is not without Rajapakse’s knowledge. The increasing militarization of the north and the east ruled over as a police State by the military amounts only to adding insult to an already devastated and traumatized people claimed to have been “liberated”, trying to retrace their bearings and heal their own wounds. This does not in any way help in the reconciliation process. Instances of rape by the military, abductions and disappearances keep mounting. Almost 10,000 suspected militants taken away from the IDP camps are said to have been summarily executed with no trace remaining. We are often told of youth being rehabilitated while they are in fact persons who have had nothing to do with the LTTE militancy arrested willy-nilly and released.

These are a recipe for the crystallisation of greater hatred for the Government and the Sinhala polity making the conviction for a separate Tamil State and self determination more resolute.  The Tamil nation are a secular society as opposed to an ethno religious entity   embracing all religions but for some strange reason no Tamil is a Buddhist unless one had had aspirations of being the prime minister. To create newly illuminated and glaring Buddhist temples and statues of Lord Buddha like those of Venus de Milo the Aphrodite of the Greek Milos to make a point of triumphalism in the midst of destruction and desolation of the homeless Tamil people and their meager habitation amounts not only to humiliating them but also prostituting the greatest philosopher the noble Lord Buddha and his teachings to make a point of Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism. Lord Buddha was neither a Sinhalese nor a Sri Lankan. It is by an accident of history that Sri Lanka became predominantly Buddhist because the Mauryan king Asoka of India became a Buddhist with the view to expiating his sins of the killing of soldiers on both sides in a war and sending his emissaries to the Sri Lankan king who was a Tamil to spread the message of the Buddha. It is not anything like Sri Lanka becoming predominantly Sikh in the present context!

It is said that that the Reconciliation commission is to inquire into the causes that led to terrorism, the lessons to be learnt from this, and the path to reconciliation. Even an eighth grade civics student will tell you that that the main cause that led to “Tamil terrorism” was reaction to the terrorism   periodically and systematically unleashed on the Tamil people by the Sri Lankan State, the inequalities, the disregard for their traditional homelands and discrimination.  If one refuses to learn from this then you are not anywhere near the path of reconciliation but only earning their mistrust if that is of any concern. No mention anywhere is made of the role of the Sri Lankan State and the Sinhala body politic in progressively alienationg the Tamil people, giving the impression that it it was all their doing.

The credentials of the commission are itself suspect. The Commission is to be headed by the former attorney general whose record in the area of administration of justice when it comes to Tamil issues is far too dubious for any credence to be attached to the commission. He was largely responsible for impeding the course of justice in the special Presidential commission, another sham, appointed to inquire into the wanton killing of 18 Tamils working for the French INGO by the Special Task Force of the military and the killing of the 5 Tamil university students by the security forces in the east of Sri Lanka, making a mockery also of the committee of internationally eminent persons appointed to oversee the working of this commission.  They, it would be recalled, disbanded themselves in frustration. Also, we are informed that   as a state counsel he played a major role in preventing further action   into the massacre of more than 50 Tamil remand prisoners suspected of being LTTE persons awaiting a judicial inquiry, tortured and bludgeoned to death by some “patriotic” Sinhalese prisoners, released for this purpose, who were also inmates of the Welikade prison the principal State prison in Sri Lanka, during the 1983 State sponsored Pogrom against the Tamils. Rajapakse could not have got a better chairperson.

The best that Mahinda Rajapakse can do to help in the reconciliation process is to abstain from shedding crocodile tears in public internationally and locally on the present plight and the misery of the Tamil people which only angers them rendering any spirit of reconciliation increasingly impossible. It would be unwise to underestimate the intelligence of the Tamil people even in their present state of mind.