The Politics of Apology

A Personal Reflection

 

by Reverand BJA (UK)

 

Without restorative justice there is no constructive peace.

As a teenager then, I remember hearing the words of Kasi Anandan: ' We can't trust the Sinhalas. They will never give us our rights. The change of government is like the snake shedding its skin. But the snake remains venomous'.

In the final analysis, Statehood of the Ceylon Tamil after all, is a historical fact. Hence it begs no apology.

 

When I read the article on Daily News (26/07/04) about the apology given to the Ceylon Tamils by the Sri Lankan President I could not help but resurrect horror stories related to me by my late parents.

Reconnecting

It was a generation that had not lost its innocence yet and had no inkling to any form of violence at all. It was a generation that believed in giving their word as their bond and hence trusted and respected both their spiritual and political leaders. To them the cunning betrayal of trust by Sinhala political leaders (in some cases Tamil stooges as well) were beyond their comprehension. My parent's generation could hardly read or write Tamil owing to the colonial education. This however made them 'every inch a Tamil' in the best sense of the word. English being the link language prior to the divisive 'swabasha' they enjoyed close-knit friendships with Sinhalese, Burghers and Moslems. In 1958, when the initial pogrom against the Tamils flared up my father found himself lying unconscious in a pool of his own blood in Mount Lavinia. Death was at a wafer-thin distance! He would later recall to us that when blood was gushing out of him, the racist thugs were dancing and chanting: "Para Demelunge Lay" [Tamil Pariah's blood]. My mother said that his white cotton suit had turned into thick red!

My older brother was rushed from S.Thomas prep-school and on his way he had witnessed thugs beating up Tamils and setting Tamil shops on fire. As a young lad then, he tried hard to work out the "what's and why's". In the mid-night hours the frightened eyes of my mother could not believe what she saw: The saffron robed Buddhist clerics from the nearest temple were quietly walking down the road with some thugs and pointing out to them which were the Tamil houses! My mother instinctively knew what was coming.

From that day onwards my mother refused to reside in Colombo. Returning to the traditional homeland was indeed their inalienable birth right - and that is how their generation interpreted the whole painful episode without any inkling of revenge!

Then in 1983 my sister would recall how she and her husband were begging those murderers when they almost succeeded in abducting her only son (then 5yrs old) in Mattakuliya if they would not give them 5 Lakhs of Rupees in cash! They died a thousand deaths before they immigrated to Canada, where her son is a final-year university student now.

Tears

I look back to all these true stories with much pain. Many of whom we know have gone through million times more grief and have lost their loved ones in gruesome circumstances. In recent times I have watched with astonishment the treachery of the Karuna episode. There again we read it was Anura Bandaranaike who had chaperoned Karuna to Malaysia. As a teenager then, I remember hearing the words of Kasi Anandan: ' We can't trust the Sinhalas. They will never give us our rights. The change of government is like the snake shedding its skin. But the snake remains venomous'. I find these prophetic words echo back to me each time there is political betrayal !

Trust

I'm tempted to welcome the apology given to the Ceylon Tamils by the Sinhala President. However, instinctively a voice within me prompts me to ask: Madam, what's the catch?

When a political or a spiritual leader looses her or his credibility by the sheer lack of integrity than what ever one seem to do there after does not repair the damage done already. There is quite sadly, a history of double talk and broken promises even up to recent times. No one is surprised when the Karuna debacle trail seem to point towards the Horogolla mafia!

Does the President genuinely realize the pain and suffering of the Ceylon Tamils since 1958? As a Buddhist how does she live out her faith (which happens to be the State religion) without making genuine attempts to peace making?

If this apology is a genuine starter, would the Madam President honestly address the Tamil Question: social, political and economic imbalances and arrive at a settlement?

Struggle

The Ceylon Tamils believe the only way to achieve freedom from the clutches of Sinhala (political, cultural, economic) hegemony is to reclaim their homeland as a separate state. Many have died in the struggle. And no compensation can fill their gap.

I wish to conclude by saying that an apology ought to accompany not just a symbolic compensation but truthful restoration. Without restorative justice there is no constructive peace.

In the final analysis, Statehood of the Ceylon Tamil after all, is a historical fact. Hence it begs no apology.

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Posted July 29, 2004