Ilankai Tamil Sangam

Association of Tamils of Sri Lanka in the USA

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A Letter from a Tamil

by Roy Ratnavel

To kill the innocent in a vast scale is horrifying; to deny the horror is simply inhuman. Mr. Weerasinghe, if you aren't completely appalled by Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamils, then you haven't been paying attention.

Mr. Asoka Weerasinghe,

You are probably aware that the majority of Tamils in Sri Lanka and abroad wholeheartedly support the ‘freedom struggle’ successfully led by the LTTE over the last two decades on our behalf despite the obstacles engineered by successive Sri Lankan governments.

That may be the reason you decided to write a letter to the newly elected Canadian cabinet. If so, we are flattered, but believe you are setting yourself up for disappointment. While we are not sure if the new Canadian government will go along with your letter, which at best can be described as incoherent drivel packed with ‘vile and bile,’ we are sure that our ‘fight against tyranny’ and ‘fight for freedom’ will go on until at least one of the stated objectives is achieved. If your expectation is that we will cease and desist by your desperate effort to crush our freedom struggle, you can expect to be disappointed.

You are probably lamenting and asking what is the secret of our success so far? The answer, of course, is there is no secret; but there are some aspects of what we lack in Sri Lanka that differentiate us from the Sinhalese – we lack freedom and democracy. We would love nothing better than to live in peace and harmony while sharing the once beautiful and tranquil land called Sri Lanka with our Sinhalese brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, when we are threatened and abused, it is difficult for us to entertain such an option. Our goal is not to destroy Sri Lanka, rather to construct a territory that has the potential to yield freedom and democracy for Tamils and the generations to come, without assuming ongoing undue risks. Until we achieve that goal, we will be marching on a path towards that goal, whether you agree or not.

What you expect is for us to follow a path that you understand and agree with, and that you think will enable you to achieve your objectives, consistent with Sri Lanka’s ethnic policy of total domination over Tamils since the dawn of independence from the British. But we chose a path that challenges your idea of domination and discrimination of Tamils in Sri Lanka. So you have been crying foul ever since.

Tamils are ‘freedom fighters.’ We take both of those terms seriously: we want freedom for our people, and not just in words, but also in deeds. We will fight for those rights. We refused to sit by idle any longer for someone to deliver this to us – we may have believed that once and organized political dissent, but that failed miserably. We have recently shown the world that we will consider political dissent again under the right set of conditions.

As freedom fighters, we are freedom driven. The most common error you have made in much of your correspondence to media and politicians is that you often confuse ‘democratic fundamentals’ and ‘freedom merit.’ A group of people in a country who are doing terrifically well, who have a clear destiny, a government that is embrasive and response and which enacts laws that create the right conditions for a better future for those people to look forward to, is a country with great ‘democratic fundamentals, and therefore worth living in.

A country that has poor democratic fundamentals, has unequal rights, and intolerance towards its minorities, practices killing of its innocent citizens as a form of intimidation, creates an unwarranted pessimistic environment and is generally bound by ‘thug’ law, is a country that merits fighting against – for freedom. There is no law in life or nature that says one group may commit atrocities against another without impunity. Whoever believes that is by definition an ignorant, pompous, semi-literate unperson. Fundamentals and merits are two different things. More simply, you are either wrong about the definition of democratic fundamentals in Sri Lanka, or wrong about the merits of freedom, or both.

One of the most important questions in a democracy is how the minorities are treated, or - put slightly differently - what are the controls embedded in its constitution to defend minority rights? We believe Sri Lankan democracy is pragmatically inefficient, which means it has been a country which claims to be democratic, but in its true form is ruled by thugs and systematically has unleashed violence and unjust laws against Tamils over and over again. The evidence in favor of that proposition is overwhelming, as the successive governments' policy against Tamils over long periods of time can readily attest. To kill the innocent in a vast scale is horrifying; to deny the horror is simply inhuman. Mr. Weerasinghe, if you aren't completely appalled by Sri Lanka's treatment of Tamils, then you haven't been paying attention.

This all sounds fine, maybe even conventional to you. You may be thinking, of course in a democracy one needs to have freedom, one needs to have safety or one needs to have equal rights. A generous assessment of Sri Lanka will reveal its ambiguities and it will become clear to you how little these general concepts are understood by Sinhalese politicians when it comes to Tamils.

Mr. Weerasinghe, how about democracy for Tamils? Don't you or anyone else care enough to question the Sri Lankan government? How could the Sinhalese and the world turn a blind eye to such relentless persecution of Tamils? We ask ourselves that all the time. We are disgusted by the world’s inaction and that is why we are fighting. We are freedom fighters.

For the world community it is easy to talk about (but hard to accomplish) to accept the responsibility to protect minorities who face annihilation anywhere on the globe. We do not want to practice the Taoist wei wu wei, the "doing not doing" as regards to our freedom, otherwise known as creative non-action. Unable to understand this, every half-baked Western expert who for the most part can’t point to Sri Lanka on a world map, labels us as ‘terrorists.’ As Tamil freedom hopefuls, we are very familiar with both the terrorism experts and the general public's Hollywood and news-based perception of the Tamil freedom struggle.

Throughout history, occupying forces have met violent resistance from indigenous populations, because it is human nature to resist occupation with all means available so that one can live with freedom and dignity. As a result of our freedom struggle, the pain Sri Lanka has had to endure is appalling, but it doesn't make a martyr of Sri Lanka, nor – much as you would like it to – does it sweep away all argument about the ambiguities of Sri Lanka's participation in its own downfall. Until Tamils are granted their basic human rights and treated like human beings in Sri Lanka, the Tamil uprising and the 'rally' around the world will continue. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to reread the history books.

In several years' time, when the pluralistic Tamil Eelam emerges from the rubble of Sri Lanka's racist terror, the ‘war against terrorism’ crowd will look ridiculous. It will be clear to them by then that Sri Lanka's ‘war on terror’ claim is not so much of an argument built on facts. Rather it is a convenience to wage ‘war on Tamils’ as 'the war against terror' is an empty catch phrase meant to marshal the sympathies of those who are already programmed to vilify the Tamils. One never knows until later, and then hindsight bias will colour their view. Mr. Weerasinghe, it always appears obvious in retrospect.

On balance, however, when it comes to the ‘Tamils' freedom struggle’ debate, we are inclined to go with the opinion of a great American writer. “I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies,” according to Mark Twain, “by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolt.”

We hope the foregoing has been helpful to you. If you understand what we have embarked on, you should be better able to judge why we are doing it. As we have no idea when our struggle will yield its desired outcome to the Tamils, but we can promise that no one will care more about Tamils than Tamils themselves.

We have always been fans of a mathematical technique called ‘proof by repeated assertion.’ So we’ll say it again: Yes, the Tamils’ cause is absolute!


Roy Ratnavel
A Tamil, not a Tiger.

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