|Growing Togetherness, Solidarity and Sharing of the Tamils Cannot be Reversed
(A Dinner-Talk given by Prof. Dr. S. J. Emmanuel at the Charity Dinner organised by Tamils Rehabilitation Organisation (TRO-UK Branch) on 16 Dec 2000 at Walthamstow Assembly Hall in London.)
1. Tamil Rehabilitation Organisation has come to stay as a growing togetherness, solidarity and sharing!
Dear friends, I have the honour to speak to you this evening as a witness of the charitable services rendered by the TRO in Jaffna and in Wanni, especially during those years of mass-exodus and displacements of Tamils from their homeland. I had the privilege then of accompanying my sisters and brothers in their suffering. And today I stand here on their behalf to thank you all.
As you all already know, those who wage a racist war against the Tamils of Tamil Eelam, besides their throttling of the lives of the Tamils in Tamil Eelam, by using a prolonged and inhuman economic blockade as a weapon of their war, they are also trying their utmost by means of false propaganda and accusations in western countries, to cut even the Tamil expatriate-hands which attempt to feed, shelter and clothe the victims of war.
But these untold deaths, destruction and displacements inflicted by successive Sri Lankan Governments and their forces on the Tamil people and their homeland, have gradually given birth to a new force of oneness among our people. This new force we recognise is our definitive growing togetherness, solidarity and sharing. In other words, the humanitarian tragedies created by the policies of the Sri Lankan governments have pushed the Tamils to become more conscious of their togetherness, to become more eloquent of their solidarity and to become more generous in sharing what they have with the unfortunate ones.
I want to assure you my friends, helpers and well-wishers of the TRO, that so long as there exists a discriminated and suffering Tamil people in Tamil Eelam and an expatriate Tamil community in strong solidarity with their suffering brethren, this organisation, the TRO, is bound to stay and will only grow from strength to strength.
Let those who try to stifle, if not stop, this new force and spirit of Growing Togetherness, Solidarity and Sharing among the dispersed Tamils of Tamil Eelam and their suffering brethren realise, that this TRO-spirit and force, born out of the crying needs against atrocities and denials of the basic needs of the Tamil victims of war, cannot be stifled or extinguished or weakened by the jealousies, suspicions and malicious manoeuvres of racist politicians, Tamil traitors and hired journalists.
2. Despite the racist efforts of Sri Lanka to chase the Tamils away from their homelands, a new Tamil nation rooted in Tamil Eelam and spread across the world is bound to bloom.
The Sri Lankan governments and their forces, by their racist policies and imperialistic occupations have been driving out the Tamils from their homelands, both within the island of Sri Lanka and out across into the world of refugees. This has caused agonising separation, dispersion and even disintegration of the traditional ties within Tamil families. These are some of the invisible but immense tragedies suffered by the Tamils in the hands of the Sinhalese. Despite all these satanic forces, the new Tamil nation is bound to grow from strength to strength.
3. This growing oneness is effecting an “internal liberation” within the Tamil communities
This togetherness has won for us at least partially a needed “internal liberation” within the Tamil communities of Tamil Eelam. Irrespective of the traditional differences like caste, religion, village and educational barriers, which have been for centuries standing on the way to our unity as a people, we have been forced by suffering and loss to grow together as a nation, both within the war zones of Thamil Eelam as well as in all the foreign lands across the world.
The immediate sufferings and needs have forced those still struggling in the war zones to liberate themselves from the clutches of man made differences and struggle together and support one another. In the expatriate situation, where such sufferings are minimal, if not altogether absent, this growing togetherness will take its own time. Cultural events and celebrations are important and necessary for us to grow, but inadequate to nourish and cement a firm togetherness.
Events like these, where we express our solidarity with our suffering and our readiness to help them, have a liberating effect on ourselves. We feel freed from our own boundaries and slaveries of wealth, status and position, as we gather and work for a noble purpose of helping our brethren at home. On the other hand, the funds we collect and channel through the TRO heal and help our brethren in Tamil Eelam to grow as one people through their suffering.
3.1 The growing oneness as I witnessed at the ground level
I have witnessed at close quarters, how the threat to life through aerial bombs, shortage of food, clothing and shelter moved the hearts of those who still had a small house or some food, to share even that little with their unfortunate brethren.
During those rainy days following the exodus of 500,000 people from Jaffna, when the few community-buildings like schools and temples of Thenmaradchi were totally inadequate to accommodate the displaced, how generous were those simple and poor people of Thenmaradchi in accommodating 5,10, or even 15 families within their houses and premises. Welcoming, accommodating, sharing and caring - these were the noble values that fostered that togetherness and gave our people strength to survive.
These sufferings did liberate us Tamils from clinging on to our prestigious caste, religion, status, wealth and education. They liberated us to stretch out our hands - both to beg and to share. Whether it is for a little shelter to rest for the night, a concrete-roof to protect against the bombs, or some food and water to keep body and soul together, the Tamil hands readily clasped one another in mutual help. And that had strengthened them towards a new liberation. Not only the shackles of slavery, which we carried within our race, fell by the wayside in our march towards freedom, but the new culture of togetherness; solidarity and sharing have grown across the borders to bind us together as a new Tamil nation.
3.2 The heroic services of the TRO as I saw it
I have witnessed the heroic services of the TRO during the historic exodus from Jaffna in November 1995 and from Kilinochchi on July 1996. A few of those services are well registered in my mind and worth recalling.
Within a space of few days and hours, a network of humanitarian services ranging from cooking utensils, sleeping-mats and cadjan leaves and sheds for cooking at least one meal a day had to be organised for many thousands both with the help of other NGOs as well as with youth volunteers among the displaced and materials bought by the TRO. The NGOs and the government AGAs in Thenmaradchi, Vadamaradchi and Wanni were witnesses to the efficient co-ordination of humanitarian services and administrations of orphanages and relief centres in those areas.
Similarly when the second exodus occurred from Kilinochchi into the jungles around Madhu, our unfortunate brethren devoid of the basics to life walked in the rain and through the jungles with nothing more than a few plastic bags. The TRO, like Udukkai Illanthavan Kai pole rushed prompt assistance to these people. It is worth recalling the heroism of the TRO around that time.
Though the people of Wanni had no access to electricity or batteries to enable them listen to radios, the Sri Lankan government had on July 25th 1996, declared through its radio curfew over the Wanni region from the 26th. July. It had warned against all movements of vehicles, including those of the NGOs with their flags in the Wanni region. Consequently, the NGOs, which were already frustrated with a two/weeks long army/blockade against their requirements for assistance, felt the restriction on their movements as a further frozening of their activities. In their helplessness most of them moved out of Kilinochchi area and went to Madhu, thus leaving the people as orphans to face the bombs of the Sri Lankan forces. It was left to the TRO to summon all its resources of personnel and material and stand by the people to give them the minimum assistance. This fact of TRO’s heroic service was acknowledged at a meeting 14 days later at Madhu, presided over by the Government agent of Mannar and attended by me as the then Vicar General for Jaffna.
3.3 The Roll of the TRO among the Tamil expatriates
The expatriate Tamil brethren generously extending their helping hands have become an important dimension of the growing togetherness of the Tamils of Thamil Eelam. It is already a habit or second nature of expatriate Tamils to send gifts and financial assistance from their hard-earned money to their own family members and relatives in need. This may be entirely new to the westerners, but it is understood in our culture as almost a family obligation. Now this family- and cultural obligation is extended to the larger community of Tamils. Without any constraint or compulsion, without any wish for recognition or praise, purely on the basis of a growing togetherness, Tamil expatriates have given heroically, their contribution through organisations like the TRO to help their suffering brethren without revealing their identity to the beneficiaries. This noble mediatory action of the TRO in enabling expatriates to help lessen the suffering of their brethren has unfortunately become the object of sheer jealousy, of baseless suspicions and of wild accusations from the majority Sinhalese and their government.
If not for such vital aid from the expatriates channelled through the TRO, the number dying without food clothing and shelter in our homeland would have been much worse.
4. TRO was necessitated by the Intransigence and step-motherly treatment of Tamil victims of war by the government.
Let not the government forget that even the few lorries of foodstuffs, about which so much TV publicity is made in the south as well as in the international community, and about which so much reluctance and delay is caused, is bought with foreign money collected by the government in the name of Tamils.
It is a well-known fact, if not for the foreign money flowing into the war zones, the people struggling there do not have the financial capacity to buy those goods. The finance flowing from the Tamil expatriate community, first flows into the coffers of the central bank – bringing a sizeable amount of foreign currency earning for the Sri Lanka government’s war for peace. Only secondly, the money reaches the hands of the victims of war and helps them to buy the few necessities sold at exorbitant prices. All loose talk about food being taken away by militants or the exorbitant prices are due to heavy taxes by LTTE, - these will be exposed only when independent bodies are allowed to visit these areas and see for themselves and when a study is made on how foreign funds received to help war victims are utilised for feeding and transporting the forces.
The Sri Lankan Government can beg, borrow and even steal, in order to kill and destroy. It does not stir the conscience of weapon producing and selling countries nor of the Sri Lankan government. But if Tamils, by their own blood and sweat, earn their money by hard work, and pool a part of their earnings to help the Tamil victims of war, then it is labelled as money collected for war! The simple truth is that the Sinhalese are begging for arms and more men to be armed for the war against the Tamils and the Tamils are begging for aLms, to help the victims at home to survive.
5. Increasing self-support among Tamils strengthens our right of self-determination
Our right for self-determination, though refused to be acknowledged by the majority Sinhalese, is beginning to be acknowledged by the international community. It is interesting to hear the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister’s comments regarding our right of self-determination. Completely blind to the fact that Sri Lanka not only failed during the last 50 years to solve the ethnic question but also produced a genocide inside the country as well as a huge refugee-problem for the whole world, he is trying to defend a new right of Sri Lanka, namely, of continuing to solve its problems by further genocide and exodus of Tamils. While begging the whole world for money and weapons to effect genocide and world-wide refugee problem, he dares to tell the world:- we want only your money and weapons, but not your advice or mediation. Self-respecting Tamils still believe on their right to rule themselves. Tamils who may have mortgaged their rights for other favours do not believe in their right of self-determination. The international community increasingly understands this and is seeking new ways of accommodating this right of self-determination within present borders of states.
We all know too well how the North and East received a step-motherly treatment with regard to developments through foreign aid. It is a well-documented fact of history. Even before this war started, there were many instances of money, which were received for development projects in the North and East, unjustly diverted to developing the South only. And now with this war against the Tamils escalating, can we expect the government to do better? In Tamil there is a saying, (Kalyaanathil maar adiththavan, Seththa veeddil chumma irruppaano), people who beat their breasts even at weddings, will they stand motionless at funerals. The Sinhala governments have successively discriminated against the Tamils even during peacetimes. Can we expect them to be just and fair to the Tamils during a war situation?
It is in this context of escalating discrimination against the Tamils, not only before the war, but also during and after the war, we Tamils are left to care for our own wounds. Looking after the Tamil-victims of war is our responsibility – the responsibility of the still surviving and the more fortunate here. We are forced to stand on our own feet. Thus self-supporting becomes a necessity and that support strengthens our communitary right for self-determination.
6. False allegations about TRO
It is alleged that funds are raised by front organisations of the LTTE and channelled into escalating the war by paying for more arms. We know the truth and the reason why Sri Lanka is making such accusations. It is Sri Lanka which does such channelling of funds into hidden directions. If money is collected at the international level and used for war, the first and foremost to be suspected is Sri Lanka. Where is all this whole sky-rocketing aid from western donors flowing in?
How about millions given for rehabilitation of North and East? Even now, citing rehabilitation and reconstruction work in war-torn areas, the government gets much aid for rehabilitation and reconstruction. We all know too well about funds also used for political bribing of Tamil traitors. It is this governmental habit of diverting funds meant for peaceful purposes into the national war chest, which enables the government to suspect and accuse others of its own crime
It appears that the Sri Lankan government has told some foreign governments, if the expatriates cannot be deported or prevented from gathering or prevented from collecting funds for the TRO, let them channel their collections through the Sri Lankan Embassies, and the government will look after the Tamil victims of war. Knowing well how the foreign funds already intended for assisting the victims of war are either diverted to the South to help the poor in Anuradhapura and Amparaai (the “North and East” for the Sri Lankan government) or entrusted to traitors from the North to buy votes and hire murderers, the expatriate Tamils will not be foolish to entrust this service to the Sri Lankan government. It is because the expatriate Tamils do not trust the Sri Lankan government’s will and ability to help the Tamils, that they want to send straight their aid to reliable people to spend their money in feeding and housing the victims.
Let Sri Lanka first establish its good will and credentials to help the Tamil victims of war, by allowing those basic goods already paid for by the foreign donations of countries and demanded by the birth-right of citizens in that
island. When it is not prepared to fulfil its minimum obligations by Tamil citizens still struggling in the island, how can it carry out faithfully the wishes of the expatriate Tamils to their brethren?
7. Double-talks about Peace-Talks
I cannot conclude my address to you without a few comments about the current state of the proposal for Peace-Talks. As a close witness to the last rounds of Peace-talks and basing myself on the exchange of letters between the LTTE and the Government, I have analysed the reasons for the failure of those Talks in an earlier article.
Recent events have shed further light on the insincerity and the incapability of the Sri Lankan government for any meaningful talk for a peaceful settlement. We are asking for peace-talks without pre-conditions.
While the world welcomes the proposal of Prabaharan for unconditional peace-talks under conditions of normalcy, the government of Sri Lanka, is cornered by the clear stance of the LTTE. From different ministers in the orbit around the President, we hear contradictory and shameful responses to the one clear stance of the Tamil Leader. Ministers are already fighting among themselves as to who and who should go for the talks, without understanding or clearly responding to the call for talks.
While the President is in Europe lobbying the donor countries before the decisive meeting for aid, her boys stationed in different corners of the globe are making different statements exposing the utter bankruptcy and helpless of the government, when faced with reason, truth and justice. Those who cried eloquently for an all out war to wipe away the LTTE do not know how to do the somersault between the Buddhist extremists and the President. And the President is in a fix as to how to respond to the pressures of the international community and its donors. The Foreign Minister does shadow boxing in misquoting and attacking the LTTE leader and challenges the self-determination of a people by speaking of his new right to keep on solving a problem for the last 50 years, causing destruction of Sri Lanka and its overflow into other countries. It is time for other countries to tell Sri Lanka that this right proclaimed by its foreign minister to resolve its internal problem ends where the right of other countries affected by the flow of Tamil refugees begin.
Instead of doing the homework at home and bringing a just and peaceful settlement through talks, the foreign minister is going all over the world, trying to teach the foreign governments how to oppress the Tamils in their lands, how to close down any association they have and how to stop them pooling their money to help the victims of war?
Laws may be passed and offices may close, but the growing togetherness, solidarity and sharing of resources will not be reversed by such moves.