Sri Lanka, Eelam Tamils and the Ethical Crime

Posted in Liberation Struggles by Karthick RM on August 8, 2011

Also read at Sanhati

Sound, it can be said, is relative to the silence that precedes it. Deeper the silence, louder the noise. There was indeed relative silence in the world on the Sri Lankan war and the Eelam Tamils’ struggle, a silence that benefited a fascist state the most. The ‘Killing Fields’ video of Channel 4 came with a devastating bang and exposed to the world the horror that was Sri Lanka’s ‘war on terror’. While the news was already old for Tamil activists, something that many have been writing about for long, the powerful visuals of the 48 minute documentary created shock, especially among the ruling elites of Sri Lanka.

The Lankan government went on a hyperbole in its attempts to dismiss the video as false. The army spokesperson rubbished the video as ‘propaganda’. Der Fuhrer Rajapaksa, in an interview to his Indian Goebbels, an Indian journalist who was awarded the Sri Lanka Ratna and has remained loyal to the country that gave him that honour, remarked that the video was just a “film”. His brother Gothabaya, the defence secretary, was even more forthcoming – in his characteristic chivalrous manner that the Tamils are so familiar with, he wanted to know why one of interviewed war victims was not raped by the army men even when she was “a person so attractive”. Others in the Lankan defence were also more or less gender sensitive while commenting upon allegations of rape by the Lankan forces that the video has proved.

There were some comic gestures on the part of other Sinhala politicians as well. Chandrika Kumaratunga, for one, said that after watching the video one would be ashamed to call oneself Sinhalese. We laughed. When the Lankan Army overran Jaffna in 1995 under her rule, all the atrocities that we accuse them of today were committed then, maybe on a slightly lesser intensity. If the naked story of Vanni massacre is embodied in the face of Isaipriya today, the face of brutalities under Chandrika’s regime were depicted in the stories of Koneswary and Krishanty yesterday. Rajapaksa did not jump from the skies to commit these crimes. The wheels of genocide were set against the Tamils much farther back and Chandrika was as much a spoke in it as Rajapaksa. One thing is clear after the Channel 4 video now. No one can claim innocence over what happened in 2009. It is all a matter of taking sides.

But where is the Sinhala ‘civilian’ in this debate on genocide? The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a Jaffna Tamil friend who was personally affected by the war about the supposed progress of ‘reconciliation’ between the communities of Sri Lanka that Rajapaksa and his PR men were boasting about.

“What do you see when you look at a Sinhala army man?” I asked her.
“A murderer and a rapist,” she said.
“Ok. What do you see when you look at a Sinhala civilian?”
“The employer of murderers and rapists.”

Further enquiries on ‘reconciliation’ were unnecessary. There are those who are largely ill-informed of the Sri Lankan situation who would lay the blame of the war on the Lankan leaders alone owing to their being “mere instruments of class rule and national oppression” and/or because they are “puppets of imperialism.” Such an argument only partially exposes Sinhala racism for it ignores the essence of fascism in Sri Lanka.

The tragedy in Mullivaikaal in 2009, the largest massacre in the history of the Tamils, was celebrated by huge numbers of Sinhala ‘civilians’ across the island country. Over 100000 Tamils were butchered in the last stages of the war and while we mourn it, remembering our loved ones, the Sinhalese participate in government celebrations. The condition in Sri Lanka bears likeness to that state of a society that Hannah Arendt so famously described as ‘the banality of evil.’ The genocide of the Tamils in their homelands was not executed by a ruling class and its military alone, it had the wilful consent of the taxpayers-citizens who stood by the state in all its violent measures. Sartre was more explicit in condemning the inactivity of the passive citizen in such societies, if one did not protest when the government that one voted for commits genocide, then one was “undoubtedly a torturer”. What else explains the absolute absence of any major anti-war demonstrations from the Sinhalese side while there have been massive outpourings of support for the jingoistic rallies celebrating victory over the Tamils? How do we account for the anti-war Socialist ideologue Siritunga Jeyasoorya receiving less than 0.36% of the total votes in the Presidential elections after the war while Rajapaksa, with his fascist diatribes, emerged with a thumping majority as a national hero? Fascism has its roots deep in Sinhala society and the ruling class alone cannot be blamed for it.

Celebrating Sinhala triumph: dancers at a Lankan government's 'victory' function post-Vanni massacre

The Sinhala today is in a unique position in history like never before. He is much like the German ‘civilian’ on the dawn of Nazism, and he will be remembered by the Tamils in the future the same way a Jew today would think of the German in 1938. If the regime he voted for is drunk with power, he is inebriated with a sense of permanence. He denies that anything is wrong with the regime he supports. Even if the truth, as naked as the executed Tamil civilians shown in the C4 video, is thrown in his face, he will still stare with adoration at his national emblem and rally behind calls for unity. He is the ethical criminal who gives the power to the war criminals in the state. Then, the fascist at the top is not an aberration, he is the rule, while the likes of Viraj Mendis and Jude Fernando who live in exile for supporting the Tamils are oddities – much like what Oskar Schindler was in Nazi Germany. My friend was not off the mark when she said that she saw in the Sinhala ‘civilian’ an employer of murderers and rapists.

There is another layer that seems supposedly ‘in between’ in the whole conflict. The liberal multiculturalist, the likes of those who run ‘groundviews’ and other such outfits that use sophisticated jargon like ‘post-conflict reconciliation’ ‘coexistence’ ‘citizen’s alternatives’ to cover what they really are – apologists of state oppression. They are indeed a spectacle – they endorse all identities provided it does not hurt the general identity of ‘Sri Lankan’, which for the Eelam Tamils means occupier of their lands. And like all multiculturalist hypocrites, their organizations and positions resolutely deny the existence of the unique Eelam Tamil identity, the identity of an oppressed people asserting which they sacrificed over 200000 lives, serving the purpose of no one but the oppressors and their ideology. Collaborating with them are a group of Tamil intellectuals, an elite, steeped in liberalism and groomed in NGO politics. There are those who deny that there was a genuine liberation struggle led by the Tigers. There are those who say that the war on the LTTE was justified, but the govt needs to give the ‘right reasons’ – as if any such reasoning would assuage the wounded sentiments of those asserted their rights to their homeland and were thus hunted. And of course, there are those who say that let bygones be bygones. Against this academic onslaught, where does the politics of the Tamil patriots stand?

The ‘groundviews’ from Vavuniya, Kilinochi and Jaffna, the views of the Tamil natives, are this – the average Sinhala colonizer views the Tamil as a defeated person, to be pitied or to be held in contempt, if not to be trampled upon. The average Tamil views the Sinhala as a sadist who turned the other way while his army committed genocide in his name, a torturer, if not a killer. If the Sinhala colonizer’s gaze makes of the Tamil an object, it is because it is backed by an occupying army. If the Tamil’s gaze shows despair, a precursor to rage, it is because the most committed defenders of her interests, the LTTE, have only recently been militarily defeated, a defeat that the occupier flaunts in her face as the end of her genuine political aspirations. The raw material required for explosion, resentment and shared memories of persecution and injustice is prevalent throughout the territory of Eelam. And this is the truth in united Sri Lanka, no matter what its apologists like Sarvananthan and Ahilan Kadirgamar might like to portray.

Let me deploy a parallel. In colonial Algeria, there were compradors who betrayed their fellow nationals, collaborating with the occupiers, for privileged positions in the bureaucracy. Among Algerians, there were men who fattened themselves with the crumbs that colonialism threw, with the blood money of their countrymen, and could even buy luxurious villas in the occupying power’s metropolis. And there were Algerian intellectuals who sought to be more French than the French themselves, who would justify a peaceful coexistence between oppressor and oppressed, violator and violated, with colourful jargons and sophisticated prose. Did the FLN wage the Algerian independence struggle for such men? Or did they wage it for those countless men and women who saw the brutal face of French occupation and chose to assert their rights and their identity, for the martyrs of Setif and Phillippeville? I leave it to the sensitive reader to make her/his conclusions and draw appropriate parallels with the Eelam struggle and its protagonists. All I can say is that the Eelam struggle was, is, and will be waged for those Tamils who assert their legitimate right to their homeland, to be different and to secede, at the risk of sounding sentimental, for the thousands of young Tamil men and women who chose to fight and die even when they had a choice to collaborate and live, and at the risk of sounding metaphysical, for the vindication of their faith that one day there will a land called Tamil Eelam that we can call home.

So, the Tamil liberal who infests the elite circles of Colombo 7, who speaks of ‘post-war reconciliation’ or ‘citizen activism’ without addressing the fundamental political demands of the Eelam Tamils is as guilty of ethical dishonesty as his intellectual bedfellow, the Sinhala liberal who, like all liberals of oppressor nations, primarily serves his nation’s interests only. The Eelam Nation is still facing war – as even a cursory glance of Gothabaya’s recent statements would indicate. The reality of war, as Sartre observed, is always Manichean and all discourses of ‘plural identities’ and ‘multiculturalism’ is nothing short of a farce. And the intellectuals who take refuge in such arguments are as guilty of crimes as the rapists and murderers and their employers.


22 Responses

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  1. Mango said, on August 8, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Hey Karthick, only 100,000 innocent Tamil civilians murdered? I thought at least 400,000 innocent Tamil civilians were murdered by the Genocidal Sri Lankan state. Do us a favour and at least get your casualty stories correct. All of you Eelamists keep quoting different numbers… Anyway, good news, Eelam Youth will fight for Eelam with every cupcake available.

    • Karthick RM said, on August 8, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      Thank you for the good Sri Lankan humor that never fails to amuse.

  2. Mango said, on August 8, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Excellent. On the ‘humour’ front, I admit it. The Eelamists have won, time and time again and will keep doing so for the foreseeable future. Gota and Mahinda don’t really understand jokes 🙂

    I think we can both agree that the Eelam struggle was a 30-year long dead end. Those people who advocate its’ continuance (like you), should lead from the front. i.e. actually put your life at risk, rather than encouraging the needless deaths of another generation of Sri Lankans (irrespective of their so-called ethnicity), no?

    • Karthick RM said, on August 8, 2011 at 7:22 pm

      Dead end? Hardly. The nature of the struggle has changed. That’s about it.

      As for the ‘needless deaths’, tell that to those who run white vans in Jaffna and who shelled hospitals. Debate over.

      • Mango said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:21 am

        hellloooooo…. Dear Karthick… why are you so afraid of debate? Worried in case your fantasy world falls apart?

      • Karthick RM said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:53 pm

        ‘Debate’ presupposes the notion that something mutually acceptable can evolve from the act. I see no point in debating with “an employer of rapists and murderers”.

  3. Sellaratnam said, on August 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Karthick RM

    I was impressed by your article. Your valuable message needs to be spread all over the world.
    Your passion has touched me deeply and brought tears to my eyes.

  4. Sellaratnam said, on August 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    Karthick RM

    Mango is a well known all over the internet. He is a Shameless Sri Lankan Propagandist. He works for Sri Lanka Government. I would be careful of him

  5. Sellaratnam said, on August 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Some good links

    The Sri Lankan killing fields

    siancorrespondent dot com/62242/the-sri-lankan-killing-fields/

    Tamil girls forced to have sex with HIV men

    uktamilnews dot com/index dot php/archives/34298#more-34298

  6. kajan said, on August 12, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Good one. Well thought out.

    I do see a Nazi/Jew connection too. I guess everyone does…. trouble was, it was in the interest of Western nations to oppress the Nazis.

    No one with the power, cares for Sinhalas or Tamils. Not even China, which probably things of Srilanka as tail wagging dog. It can run nowhere else.

    But ultimately, though I think the Sinhala population in general is a sick one, and has been getting sicker over the last 30 years, I have to say that I feel pathetically sorry for them. For the sick society they have built among themselves. For how insecure they will always be, regardless of any victory in any battle. It was comical to see the leaders in that country talk of victory, but implicitly beg funds from expatriates to run it.

    I really don’t see any sort of good happening to Tamils in Srilanka unless Tamilnadu itself becomes more powerful, a separate entity from the Indian union and boasts of a population that is above poverty. Not things that will happen overnight, though there is hope that this will be attained in our lifetime. If this generation implements some good measures.

  7. Outlook said, on August 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Basically, the Tamils got owned in Sri Lanka.

    There are many reasons for that, but one the main ones is the LTTE’s refusal to come to a negotiated settlement.

    • Sellaratnam said, on August 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      The main reason for war is Rajapaksa, the well known hawk.

      He never wanted a peaceful settlement, he wanted the total annihilation, colonization, enslavement of the Tamil people. Rajapaksa has an insatiable greed. He wants All and Everything. He promised the Tamil Tigers political solution if they help him to win an election. And we all know what happened to them. He promised India to give Sri Lanka Tamils a political solution when they wiped out the Tigers and he lied again. Rajapaksa is Mass Murderer and a Shameless Liar

  8. kajan said, on August 16, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Very true. But I think his hatred is based on a lot of hatred for India’s influence on Srilanka. Not many know that he was a small time lawyer with links to the defunct Sinhala guerrilla outfit.

    Now Srilanka is entirely a guerrilla government.:-)

  9. Saini said, on August 16, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Well written article. I feel sad at reading this. Where is the solution to the plight of these hapless people?

    • Karthick RM said, on August 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      I dont know what the solution is. But right now, one should study where it will come from.

  10. Sellaratnam said, on August 16, 2011 at 11:29 am

    India was always an enemy of Sri Lanka.

    The 1956 Sri Lanka general election was fought on the fear psychosis that “India with the assistance of Tamils will invade Sri Lanka (Ceylon then) and push the Sinhalese into the Indian Ocean. Vote for us (SLFP) to save you”.

    Recently the PM SL said that India is training terrorists in three secret camps to be sent to destabilise SL. This received wide publicity. He was ordered to retract this clam. He did but the retraction did not receive sufficient publicity. After the WC Cricket result, goons went round beating up Tamils of Indian origin.

  11. Sellaratnam said, on August 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    Sorry i should have written that All Sri Lanka Governments consider India as enemy and use it to win elections in Sri Lanka

  12. Sellaratnam said, on August 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    In Tamil Nadu, there is should be a Sri Lanka Tamil Genocide Museum where Tamil Genocide Victims will not be forgotten.

  13. V. Thamilarasan said, on September 30, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Well written article. Trust me this can’t be done by the Rajapakshas or the sick SINhalese alone period. They were never capable of that and never will be. This destruction is well organized from outside srilanka by the very big powers in the world. India alone can’t be a game changer. It is well planned, well coordinated effort to destroy the physic of Thamils along with their army (LTTE). Look how many countries banned LTTE and bullied Tamils to move away from. How the LTTEs supply lines were destroyed, their arms procurement got strangled, how the LTTE was lured in to peace talks when they had upper hand. Of course how their negotiation fell apart at the last stage before the full scale war. Fighting a winning war (like nato against Libya or US against Iraq/Afghanistan) will be very easy. The war will be really difficult when you knew the reality and still fight. 300 Spartans is the movie that came to my memory at the last stage of Eelam war IV. It should have been fought in the same sprit under very similar situations may be much worse than that. All the major powers in the world don’t know what was going on there in Eelam? If we thought that way that should be naive. They knew what is what because they were the architects. Worst thing is today many Thamils believe that they will deliver the justice. Sadly, as a pessimist I never believed that. Someone in the comment/Kajan said “it was in the interest of Western nations to oppress the Nazis”. Trust me it was never the case! Jews who fled Germany were sent back like what is happening to Thamils. The chain of events might have made Jews to behave like monsters nowadays against people it fears. Sometime I wonder a race that underwent long struggle is doing things in multitude to others. World is getting worse day by day. When money takes lead and mind goes down what anyone can expect other?

    • Karthick RM said, on October 21, 2011 at 10:55 pm

      Vidiyal Pirakkum Thozhare. At this moment of darkness, have faith. That is the only thing I can tell to my fellow Tamils.

      Our children will be avenged one day.

      (sorry for the delay in approving your comments. I didnt update my blog for long.)

  14. Man said, on January 1, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Sinhala civilians are not aware of what happened in the war zone. Racism will not solve your problems. Those who celebrated only saw the defeat of a terrorist organization and knew nothing of the suffering of Tamils. Seeing videos like Channel 4 they are in denial and believe that the individuals shown are actually the LTTE.

    You can’t condemn them as sadists without understanding their lack of understanding of the issue. THe Sinhala youth of today do not know that there was riots against Tamils before the war. This is not known. They do not know that the Jaffna library was burnt, etc. You are no better than a Gotabhya when you condemn a whole group to being ‘evil’.

    • Karthick RM said, on January 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      ‘Terrorist organization’? Well… well. When you’ve labelled the most committed defenders of the Eelam Tamils as ‘terrorists’, then what else is there to say?

      I am not condemning the whole group. I have pointed out exceptions. But it is sad that such exceptions are SO few in number. There have been a few, phenomenally bold Sinhalese who have taken enormous risks to stand by the Eelam Tamils and their political demands. I respect them much more than many Eelam Tamil leaders. But is only because I respect such individuals for the right choice they made, my contempt for those who made the wrong choices for all this while equals my admiration for the former.

      I think even after all that has happened over the past 60 years, even after what was happened after the breakdown of the CFA, even after Sencholai and Vaaharai, most of all, even after Mullivaikaal, if you are going to say that the Sinhala civilians are ‘not aware’ in this media age, it is an act of bad faith. It is a sad argument to give lack of knowledge as an excuse to remaining silent about the genocide we faced. We have been victims of not just the violence of your representatives in the armed forces, but also of the silence of those of you who could speak but who didnt.

      If you can break the silence now, if you can recognize our demands and what we fought for and what our brothers and sisters died for, then yes, you are on our side. You already know what the other side is.

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