Gajalakshmi Paramasivam – 01 August 2015
|Tamil Political group in Northern Sri Lanka
Neelan the Commonness Eliminated by LTTE the Diversity?
Many all over the world are mourning the passing away of former Indian President Sir Abdul Kalam. Amongst them are many Sri Lankan Tamils. I identified with and appreciated the high individual that President Abdul Kalam was and the rich heritage he also added value to. But not more so than the locals in my own Community.
The way it happened – as if I was being reminded of my ‘home-duty’ - my attention was drawn to Neelan Thiruchelvam who was killed on 29 July 1999 – at the age of 55. As per news reports Neelan was killed by Tamil Tigers. I feel sadness and pain for Neelan – more than I do for Sir Abdul Kalam. I paid my respects to Neelan yet again by setting aside other work to read the article ‘Remembering Neelan’s Voice Of Moderation At Moments Of Political Extremism’ by Dr. Michael Roberts. I never met Neelan in person nor even studied his work. I heard a little about him through a friend of mine who is friends with Neelan’s wife. Later when I wrote about Neelan – Dr. Peter Hollingworth former Australian Governor General responded showing appreciation for Neelan’s work. I believe that I feel this sadness due to some deeper connection - which to my mind could only happen through God’s system of Oneness/Commonness, based on Truth. When we are truly global - we may never see each other nor know about each other and yet we would feel connected and supported through our Truth. This is the higher value of Commonness above Diversity.
The question I ask myself is whether we – the educated class of the Tamil Community let Neelan down? Did we give up Commonness in our quest to promote Diversity? Is it that failure that gives this discomfort when I think about Neelan? Is it because we Neelan and I - have Vaddukoddai as part of our Commonness? Seeking at least some of the solutions, would I believe, be the memorial service to Neelan – that we as a Community owe him – even if we disagree with his position and pathway in politics. Taken at issue level – the question I ask is – did Diversity kill Commonness?
I wrote recently in terms of valuing Multiculturalism:
‘To use a simple example – the hand – the center palm is Common and the fingers are Multicultural. Multiculturalism is about preserving diversity to confirm our Commonness that supports that Diversity. Multiculturalism is priority issue for Minorities to preserve their Diversity……Dynamically including and Integrating the Truth we discover into policy helps us develop values beyond our generation and our particular culture. Such Plan becomes the basis on which we serve Community as well as the pathway through which we work together as a team.’
As per Wikipedia:
‘Tiruchelvam was called to the bar as an advocate in 1968. He took over his father's law firm Tiruchelvam Associates. He was a member of the Law Commission. He was made a President's Counsel in February 1998.
Tiruchelvam held several academic positions in Sri Lanka and the USA. He was Fulbright Fellow (1969–71) and fellow in law and modernization at Yale Law School (1972–74). He was then reader at the Faculty of Law, University of Sri Lanka Colombo campus and Edward Smith Visiting Fellow and Lecturer at Harvard Law School.
Tiruchelvam was director of the Colombo-based International Centre for Ethnic Studies (ICES). He became a member of the London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) in 1994 and was elected its chair in 1999. He had been an international observer in several countries, including Pakistan, Chile, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, South Africa and Nigeria.’
It is therefore understandable that Neelan would naturally be representing Commonness than Diversity. All of the above confirm Neelan’s global commonness. They stand on their own merit.
As per my recent sharing from Vaddukoddai which area Neelan represented in National Parliament:
‘Some communities in Sri Lanka are also intuitively allocated minority status by those who have invested in more modern and global systems. I recognize that it is important for members of all communities in Australia to ‘stay’ within their home-culture where their investment in commonness is weaker than their investment in ‘Tradition’. Where the investment in commonness is stronger – than the investment in Tradition – they are ‘Australians’ first. The examples that come to mind in relation to former is ‘Sinhala-Nationalism and Tamil-Nationalism’ in Sri Lanka. While facilitating a Tailoring Business in Northern Sri Lanka, I was faced with the challenge of communicating the difference to the Business owner who brought into the premises Hindu representation of God. I explained that while they were being trained and were operating under the banner of Australian Tamil Management Service – they needed to not be seen as being strongly ‘traditional’ one way or the other. Likewise when they came outside their local areas where such adherence to ‘tradition’ carries status value. My advice was that once they came into ‘common areas’, attachments to physical cultural representations become handicaps. Completing the cultural experience within the cultural circles helps carry the value as Energy. At that level there is least attachment to the physical.
Hence development of Self-Managed Units of diverse cultures is important so that the burden of attachment to the physical is not brought forward into a Multicultural environment.’
Did the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) expect Neelan and all Educated Tamils also to promote Tamil Nationalism above Sri Lankan Nationalism? If yes, was there no place for Common Sri Lankans in Tamil Eelam? Likewise in terms of Sinhala Nation?
Is this the Political Extremism that Dr. Roberts is referring to? Should both groups ‘stay at home’ when it comes to Sri Lankan issues and interpretations? Ethnic Nationalism develops when our investment in Commonness is weaker than our investment in Diversity. If we are educated through the Common system – our first duty is to Commonness. Those who owe Commonness – and this is true of majority Sri Lankans of the educated class – need to first settle their debt to that Common pool – the parent who resourced and facilitated their growth to attain Public Status. I believe that was exactly what Neelan was doing. It is highly likely that other Educated Tamils who reacted to Sinhala Only extremism by Educated Sinhalese – who owed the Common Pool - strongly contributed to the position taken by the LTTE – that they did not owe the Sri Lankan Common State any debt because the Government wronged them. A debt is a debt – however wrong the provider may be. Our parents may be ‘wrong’ to others and even seem so to us after certain point of time. But to the extent we were supported and groomed by our parents – we owe them and the best way to settle that debt is to respect them as parents for helping us be the children we are/were. Likewise with a Government. Once that debt is settled and the parent is still active – we become Equal parents. That is the law of nature. Likewise in Governance.
Both Sinhala Nationalists as well as Tamil Nationalists of the educated class owe Common Sri Lankans. Until they settle their debts they would not have the Freedom to develop an Independent society / community. Those who stayed local and limited their access to local resources only – are entitled to express their Diversity – but in their own local/home areas and not at Common National level.
Sri Lanka needs investment in the Common Palm that supports Diversity. Where this Commonness is weak – further investment in Diversity leads to Extremism. The Diaspora needs to be Global in its Public expressions. Diaspora would be wise to relate through issues and not individual groups. Investing in issues settles the debt at global level. Many of us may lack the courage to express criticism of our own groups. But if we come out and become observers and not direct participants – we would not let Diversity bury our Commonness.