Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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Letter to the Editor of the Washington Times

from Roy Ratnavel, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Mangala Samaraweera, the foreign minister of Sri Lanka, suggested, "The United States must realize they are not dealing with a liberation movement but a ruthless killing machine more dangerous than al Qaeda" ("Embassy Row: Sri Lankan Warning," by James Morrison, Washington Times, January 5, 2006). Though it is not easy, crafting such stories is what Sri Lankan politicians do for their free trips and posh offices. Exploiting tragedy is nothing new for them – but, I must say, that Mr. Samarweera's eagerness to exploit the 9/11 tragedy puts him in a very special category.

Mr. Samaraweera’s attempt to draw some equivalence between al Qaeda’s efforts to get rid of Western civilization and the ongoing freedom struggle of Tamils in Sri Lanka is disingenuous. A troubling and continuous process of ethnic disenfranchisement and displacement underpins the latter. I’m amazed by Mr. Samaraweera's propensity to compare ‘apples and oranges’ by fishing on the pain of Western psyche and hitching a ride on the bin Laden bandwagon. It would be easier to sympathize with his pungent view, if he were to admit that Sri Lanka is a failed democracy run by thugs, and is purely an efficient bureaucratic killing machine of Tamils.

Mr. Samaraweera's effort to tarnish the Tamils’ freedom struggle and political aspirations is oddly unsatisfying. This type of accusation is an example of the continuing, perennial sickness of Sri Lanka since the dawn of independence, and the Tamils are all too familiar with it. The famous Yankee slugger Yogi Berra quote that comes to Tamils’ minds is, "déjà vu all over again."

Sri Lanka and its supporters may beat their ‘democratic drums’ around the world, claiming that they are presumably working for democracy and good governance. If Sri Lanka wins this struggle, it will be a stupendous victory for ‘state terrorism’ – not for democracy.

FACT: A large majority of Sri Lankan Tamils would agree with me that, if not for the military pressure exerted by the Tamil Tigers, there would be neither "peace package" nor "devolution of powers" proposals by the Sri Lankan government.

The pain Sri Lanka has had to endure is appalling, but it doesn't make a martyr of Sri Lanka, nor – much as one would like it to – does it sweep away all argument about the ambiguities of Sri Lanka's participation in its own downfall. Tamils will welcome any new shift in US foreign policy that considers an agenda of combating such false democracy and levelling the playing field for the disenfranchised.