Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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The EU Declaration and the Humanitarian Situation in the NorthEast of Sri Lanka

by Naren Nagarajah, TamilCanadian

The mighty EU must be feeling very proud of their decision to impose a travel ban on the LTTE and solving all the evil problems of Sri Lanka.  They also have highlighted how they could do more of the same and get the situation more under control.

We, the Tamils from all parts of the world, are paying the price of ill-conceived bureaucratic and political decisions made by, not only successive Governments of Sri Lanka, but now by every Tom, Dick and Harry from many countries and Governments.  We have too many cooks in the kitchen with each having strong opinions and each also adamant that at least one portion of their respective recipes must be included in the soup.

Anything less than a holistic approach to the problems of the Tamils will keep expediting the erosion of their rights, culture, economy and social fabric.  There must be consistency and a value-based approach to solving the National Question.  This simple fact is buried in the diplomatic, political and illusionary ether.

Over 35% of the population of the NorthEast of Sri Lanka has been directly affected by the war and/or the Tsunami.  These people are living in refugee camps, temporary shelters or with friends and relatives in their own homeland.  This number excludes the over one million who have fled overseas.  A proud community, once acclaimed for its education and economic contribution to Sri Lanka, is eroding into cultural oblivion.  Even a superficial analysis of the state of the health, economy, education, and social infrastructure of the Tamil people of the NorthEast within the last 25 years will stand testimony to their plight.

Tamils of Sri Lanka are being slowly being cooked in the pot of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and the temperature is reaching boiling point.  Some in the world are wondering why the Tamils are not reacting in a calm, democratic, pluralistic, inclusive fashion, respecting all humanitarian agendas and dictums ever pronounced.  Child recruitment is undoubtedly a human rights violation, but so is the disregard for the humanitarian suffering of the minority Tamils. The evil lies in the selective application of a human rights agenda to suit fashionable and political agendas.

The fate of SIHRN, P-TOMS and various other initiatives of the peace process, and the cruel and callous way these initiatives meant to ease the suffering of the people were dealt with by the Sinhala majority, left lasting impressions in the minds of the Tamils, including the LTTE.  So many stops and starts of peace talks, death fasts and political maneuvering with total disregard for the humanitarian situation in the NorthEast will not secure sanity and order.  This is even after the LTTE expressed commitment to explore a federal solution - a far cry from the LTTE’s demand for a separate nation.

It is a shame that the EU is surprised that the LTTE is behaving like the LTTE.  Even a casual reading of conflict resolution and rebellion would have apprised them of reality.  The LTTE was courted and treated with respect and in return LTTE started responding in a positive fashion by learning first-hand from other countries.  The LTTE engaged in the peace process and put forward proposals for negotiations (eg: the ISGA).  Those who care to remember some of the comments by the President acknowledging the LTTE’s transformation will agree that considerable progress was made. 

The Sri Lankan Government, the EU and others are now pushing the LTTE to its past.  The EU does not have to try hard in this endeavour because all the hard work has already been done by the Sinhalese.  This hard work was done at the most sensitive time for the Tamils.

There was a clear demonstration of the unwillingness, inability and incompetency of the Sinhala majority to even care about the hurt and suffering of the Tamils.  The devastation caused by Tsunami was the worst time for the Tamils.  The Government and the south’s demonstration of lack of concern and capacity to even consider allowing self-help by the Tamils was pathetic and humane.  This could not have left any hope in the minds of the Tamil people for even mercy from the majority Sinhalese, let alone a negotiated peace.  The only message was, "You are on your own, so get used to it or do something."

These are consequences of the "no-war no-peace" environment that handsomely rewards the south of Sri Lanka, at least to the point of not having to share the burden of unresolved catastrophe, the victims of which are only people who do not have a voice. 

It looks like that there is not even a single member of the international community who will take a stand on principal.  They are all assaulted by the hammer of the so-called "sovereignty of a nation," while the Tamils are wondering where the collective human rights of an oppressed minority community register on the morality scale.  The cause is forgiven and the symptoms are punished.

There is no doubt that Sri Lankan Government and Sinhala Buddhist nationalistic elements have developed a well-functioning propaganda machinery.  They have all the resources and authority of a "sovereign government" and the partnership of a passionate extremist, nationalistic element in the form of the JVP.  They also have mastered the art of intimidating any force making any statement or attempting to make a difference in the life of the Tamils.  All actions that are in favour of the Government of Sri Lanka are welcome, but all actions and statements that are adverse or not to their liking are fought back as an interference in the affairs of a sovereign nation.

The chauvinistic elements in Sri Lanka are systematically liquidating the Tamil community by a well planned and executed multi-pronged attack on language, land, religion, culture, economy, health and education.

It all started with former president JR Jeyawardena setting out to solve the LTTE problem in six months.  This was over 20 years ago and India ensured this does not happen.  We, the moderate Tamils of the world, are still waiting while all the part time cooks of the international community are having a go with their ad-hoc recipes.

I dare to say that they do not even understand the problem and they must not be allowed to play a role in shaping the solution, as we, the Tamils, are those who will have to live with the consequences.  History teaches us that people who have reached the boiling point do not worry about manners; hence, we should not be surprised.

I, as a moderate member of the  Tamil Diaspora, appeal to the part-time solution makers not to embarrass the moderate Tamils by inviting violent and adverse reactions by their ill-considered initiatives.  When things go wrong we are expected to answer for the consequences.  Enough is enough.  Please do not invite the predictable consequence of war by your lack of empathy with the problem.