by Bhekuzulu Khumalo, ‘Washington Times’ Communities blog, December 12, 2013
WASHINGTON, December 12, 2013 — Congress recently created the Congressional Caucus on Ethnic and Religious Freedom in Sri Lanka. The Caucus was initiated by efforts of Congressmen Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Danny Davis (D-IL). The objective of the Caucus is to bring the attention of the American public to the Tamils in Sri Lanka and their plight.
Major world powers have no interest in the struggle of the Tamil, largely because Sri Lanka has little strategic value or natural resource, like Libya, Iraq, Syria or Iran.
In 2011, the US and UN officials refused to meet delegates from northern Sri Lanka. The current turnaround is a welcome surprise. Hopefully, this is a humanitarian rather than a business decision.
In a joint press release, Congressmen Johnson and Davis said, “Given the magnitude of horrors Sri Lankans bore witness to, and how the most egregious alleged violators of international law remain unpunished, accountability for the guilty is essential for helping those who have suffered to heal, and the country’s diverse population reconcile.”
That is a statement that must be applauded.
Problems in Sri Lanka began after the country gained independence from England in 1948. In order to reduce tensions on the sub continent, Pakistan split from India. Englad refused, however, to divide the two ethnic groups that make up Sri Lanka, the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils.
Tensions exploded into full blown war on the island from 1983 to 2009. The Tamils made a strategic mistake during the war, fighting only for their history territory and no more. Negotiations in 2002 could have created a buffer zone, but instead, the Sri Lankan government used its resources to prepare for a final assault against the Tamils.
This is what led to the great human tragedy.
Since 1948, the Sri Lankan government had implemented a strategy of disenfranchising Tamils. This strategy included restricing Tamil access to higher education, business licenses, and settling non Tamils on Tamil land. Although the Tamils cried foul, the world ignored them. Until now.
Today a third of Tamils reside outside Sri Lanka, mostly in Western Europe and North America, but there are many residing in Africa and Asia.
There is of course the desire for their own homeland as evidenced by the fact that in September the Tamil National Alliance won 30 out of 38 seats in the North of Sri Lanka.
Most often when people fight for their homeland there is no ideology except to keep their homeland. After getting their homeland, they oppress each other as evidenced by countries such as Eritrea, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, forgetting that freedom is more than just achieving a homeland. The philosophy of freedom must include what to do when devolution or separation occurs. There must be equality before the law.
As some attention of the world turns towards Sri Lanka, the Tamil National Alliance, TNA, must adopt stances beyond the oppression from the Sinhalese. The TNA must convince its followers that the path to freedom is equality before the law that naturally leads to a free market situation whereby any Tamil in their homeland can open any business that anybody else can.
Any Tamil will be able to open a bank, a telecommunications company, a bar, a restaurant, own property and be rewarded for their actions, no Tamil can be better than another Tamil under the law.
The Presidents family controls the economy and government of Sri Lanka. President Rajapaksa belongs to a family that controls huge chunks of the Sri Lankan economy, with obvious signs of government favoritism over the years, lucrative contracts and licenses, a clear sign of inequality in the laws.
Such principles should be wiped out of the minds of Tamils, all Tamils must be treated equally by the law.
If in 1948, Sri Lanka adopted the principles of equality before the law, there probably would have been no ethnic tensions to this degree in Sri Lanka. What would the Tamil have to complain about if equality before the law was guaranteed by the constitution?
Instead, the Sinhalese mimicked the behavior of the English colonial masters, bringing repression instead of freedom.With equality before the law and free markets, ethnic tensions would be immensely reduced around the world.
Thanks to Congressmen Bill Johnson and Danny Davis for bringing the plight of the Tamil to a wider audience, it can only be hoped that Tamil understand true meaning of freedom.