14 January 2021
THE TWO FACES OF TAMIL COMMUNITY
Today is Thai Pongal Day for Hindu Tamils. When I was growing up in Jaffna, as a family, we usually celebrated the festival at our family temple. Later, in Colombo and Australia, I made sweet rice in the kitchen. Today, I did likewise, after our walk along Coogee Beach. Later today, we would be participating virtually with the folks around our temple. I felt happy at the thought that that heritage has been shared with the next generation. Our heirs in this case are not those who are biologically related to us – but of a group that disenfranchised itself from the farmer caste. Now those who cultivate our farmlands in Northern Sri Lanka are also of a group that was once ranked as ‘low-caste’
I now feel that I have shared in balancing the caste based unjust discrimination in the Tamil community – which also contributed to the war. In her article ‘A tale of Antigone?Mullivaikkal memorial monument’ Muqaddasa Wahid introduces the subject matter as follows:
[In Sri Lanka, a polarization of opinions was seen in response to this demolition. While some condemned the demolition, some saw it as an act propelling the country towards peace and reconciliation. Many who condemned the demolition were of the opinion that the memorial was constructed in the memory of innocent civilians who lost their lives in the attack on Mullivaikkal, which was declared as a No Fire Zone, in the final phase of the war. …..
But many people were forcibly held by the LTTE and were recruited to fight the war,” said Mahendran Thiruvarangan, Senior Lecturer attached to the Department of Linguistics and English, University of Jaffna. He also added that the monument symbolised the violence that the Tamils who were trapped inside the No Fire Zone suffered during the last stages of the war. “Both the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and the LTTE were responsible for this violence. But the intention of those who designed the monument was possibly to bring to light the government’s role in it. But for some of us, the outstretched hands in the monument, remind us of the pleas of Tamils, whom the LTTE gunned down, when they tried to escape the No Fire Zone in 2009,” he opined]
I identify with Dr Thiruvarangan’s picture from within. A fellow Australian Tamil wrote:
[Gaja, your writings are of academic value only and no utility value]
My response to the above was :
[Given that this is about UOJ – my contribution is the most valuable here]
My Fellow Australian wrote also:
[President is very clear that he has got two faces and makes no fuss about it. He is honest in that sense. Let me first pray for the wellbeing of Harin Fernando]
I responded as follows:
“But in my case you did not feel the need to pray. Why? Because you must believe that the President would not react to academics. Just as he opposed the LTTE at their level, he would oppose those who use that experience against him for political gain. Hence the 20th Amendment. His life was at risk and we need to respect that on the same footing we respect any war hero. If I did not respect him – I would not be Sri Lankan.
From time to time, I Oppose the Common Government and do so in the best interests of Sri Lanka’s Sovereignty to which I also have contributed. But I would reject ‘outsiders’ , including Australians taking advantage of our divisions. While many of my age group and older are still reacting, I am developing Common Sri Lankan heritage. I respect that there are others who are developing Tamil heritage. I believe that in future – both groups would be reality. Mine would facilitate global consciousness”
This is the value of Academic work. Empowered by such contributions, the folks of Jaffna would have good grounding to access global opportunities.
As indicated above, I was on my own when I went to the camps in 2009. To the extent I genuinely cared, their experience was mine. The soldiers I interacted with did not offend me in any way.
My relatives in Colombo took me with them due to their belief that I had this ‘protective power’. I noticed that in the comfort of ‘my protection’ they felt ‘free’ to emotionally express themselves – as the supporters of the above protestors are doing. They ‘retuned’ the accusations made about the LTTE. From time to time I disciplined them because I considered it to be negative Energy that would damage my protection.
The emotional reactions to the demolition of the monument has polarized the Tamil community. Strangely, it has surfaced at the same time as the Harin Fernando issue which was highlighted as follows, on 10 January:
[At a press conference held in Colombo today, SJB Parliamentarian Eran Wickremeratne said Fernando has asked for extra protection after the President said he had the LTTE leader who had bombed him “killed like a dog.”] – Economy Next
As per my knowledge – Mr Fernando’s speech in Parliament was on 06 January. As per reports it was about ‘One country one law’. The demolition happened on 08 January. The President’s speech is reported to have happened on 09 January, at Ampara.
Mr Fernando states in his letter to the IGP:
“As you can see from the annexed video clip and transcript, the President fails to differentiate between a seditious, genocidal terrorist tyrant and a legislator exercising his fundamental right to freedom of speech in Parliament.”
The common aspect is the description of the LTTE leader who had his own law. Ampara is a Muslim dominated area. As per LTTE history, they were also against Muslims and therefore their laws. LTTE cruelly expelled Muslims in 1990. Following is an excerpt of the report by DBS Jeyaraj:
[LTTE D-Day for Jaffna Muslims
Even as the expulsions were taking place in
Wanni, the Jaffna Muslims were unperturbed. According to the 1981 census
Muslims in the Jaffna District were 1.66% of the total population. A portion of
these in Chavakachcheri had been already chased out. But the Jaffna town area
Muslims could not see any danger befalling them. These were things happening to
others for different reasons. This sanguine complacency was soon shattered. The
Tigers came ‘last’ to the Jaffna Muslims. The LTTE D-Day for them was 30 October.
It was about 10:30 in the morning when the LTTE vehicles with loudspeakers began plying the roads and lanes of the Jaffna Muslim residential areas. The Jaffna Muslims were concentrated in two or three densely-populated wards of the Jaffna Municipality. Sonaka theru, Ottumadam and Bommaively were their areas. A terse announcement was repeated incessantly that representatives of each Muslim family should assemble at the Jinnah stadium of Osmania College by 12 noon. Armed Tigers began patrolling the streets. Some began a house-to-house announcement in the thickly populated lanes and by-lanes.
The people abandoned whatever they were doing and hurried to the grounds. At 12:30 p.m. a senior Tiger leader, Aanchaneyar, addressed them. Aanchaneyar later went by another nom de guerre Ilamparithy. Aanchaneyar or Ilamparithy had a brief message. The LTTE high command for reasons of security (paathukaappu) had decided that all Muslims should leave Jaffna within two hours. Failure to do so meant punishment. No further explanation was given.
When people started to question him, Ilamparithy lost his cool. He barked loudly that the Muslims should simply follow orders or face consequences. He then fired his gun several times in the air. A few of his bodyguards followed suit. The message was clear. The people thought initially that the Army was going to invade Jaffna and that the LTTE was asking everyone to leave. Only belatedly did they realise that only the Muslims were being ordered to leave.
With more and more armed Tigers coming into the area, the perturbed Muslims began packing. Initially they were not told of any restrictions on the things they could carry. So people packed clothes, valuables, jewellery and money. Buses, vans and lorries were made available for transport by the Tigers. Many Muslims made their private transport arrangements too.
The Muslims streaming out of their homes were now given a fresh order. They were asked to queue up at the ‘Ainthumuchanthi’ junction. As the hapless people lined up they were in for a terrible shock. Male and female cadres of the LTTE began demanding that the Muslim people hand over all the money, belongings and jewellery to them. Each person would be allowed only Rs. 150. Each person would be allowed only one set of clothes. Feeble protests were raised. The brandishing of sophisticated weapons and threats in aggressive tones quickly silenced them. The suitcases with clothes and other belongings were confiscated. They were opened first and selected clothes taken out. If a person wore trousers an extra set of trouser and shirt were given. If a person wore a sarong an extra sarong and shirt were given. Likewise one or two sarees and other dress clothes were given the women and children. All the money and documents including title deeds to property, cheque books and national identity cards were confiscated.
Women and girls were stripped of jewellery. Some women cadres were brutal, even pulling out ear studs with blood spurting in the ear lobes. The children were not spared. Not a watch was left. The LTTE was particularly cruel in the case of Jaffna Muslims. Jaffna Muslims reported later that Karikalan from Batticaloa was supervising the entire operation.]
As per my discovery of the way Truth works is that - when we feel that we have had the pain it automatically invokes the other side in the current environment. The pain manifested through Jaffna Tamil supporters of LTTE would have naturally invoked the picture of Muslim victims of the LTTE. In the Court of Natural Justice - the net value rules.
By calling for One law – without acknowledging the sufferings of those Tamils and Muslims – who were treated as if they were not worthy of protection of any law, Mr Fernando effectively confirmed that his speech was not based on belief. It therefore lacked the real immunity that only Belief / Truth carries. It lacks depth. Hence the manifestations through relative ‘other side’. By using the war for political gain - Mr Fernando also contributed to the demolition force. The party that he is now part of is headed by the son of Mr Premadasa who also took a firm stand against Armed Rebels and the Indian Peace Keeping Force.
Whatever happened, happened due to all our forces. Some natural and therefore exponential and others relative. When we are active in current structure – the past would be passive. When we are idle now, the past will lead us for better or for worse.
The root reasons for the war could be addressed through Truth discovered including by academics. I believe that my work continuously goes towards addressing the unreconciled past – so my heirs would inherit a positive value.