03 March 2021
I believe that even within one culture there are different forms given to Truth. Hindus for example have so many deities through whom belief is developed. When we become part of a structure and are true to that structure the true Energies that developed that structure would lead us to the Truth that we need. Sometimes they manifest through us or our opposition, the truth we need.
I was recently accused by a fellow Australian Tamil, of coming across as an anti-LTTE person. That hurt me deeply because I respected that person as a higher thinker. I put it down to his current associations which largely criticise the Government of Sri Lanka as if we are senior to the government when they get a junior like me to show off to. When they are together – they indulge in Oppari. At a Sri Lanka Reconciliation Forum, Sydney meeting I was informed that Dr Daya Somasundaram of University of Jaffna had advised that Oppari was an outlet. I identified with it. Mine is writing my truth as per my conscience. I am the highest authority for such expressions.
From time to time I think of that, when people lament about their past over which they have no control. Oppari is presented by Wikipedia as follows:
[An oppari is an ancient form of lamenting in Southern India, particularly in Tamil Nadu and North-East Sri Lanka where Tamils form the majority. Oppari is a folk song tradition and is often an admixture of eulogy and lament. The oppari is typically sung by a group of women relatives who come to pay respects to the departed in a death ceremony. It is a means to express one's own grief and also to share and assuage one's grief for the deceased. Many communities use the oppari to express their grief at a funeral. Sometimes professional oppari singers are recruited, but it is a dying practice.]
My experience of Oppari happened in Northern Sri Lanka – when my paternal grandmother ‘Manikam’ had just passed away in Chavakachcheri at her daughter’s home and her body was brought to her home in Arali, in Vaddukoddai area. Our maternal grandaunt known as Muthu Mami was reported to have cried out ‘Manikkam! don’t go without me!’ almost immediately Muthu Mami also passed away in Ottumadam – close to Jaffna town. They were both in their late eighties. I was taken to Muthu Mami’s funeral by my mother while we were waiting for my father’s sister Yogammah to arrive from Burma to participate in her mother’s funeral. At Ottumadam funeral house – the women – many unknown to me – made up the Oppari group. Somehow I ( only 10 years of age) also got dragged into it . My mother’s elder sister Gunamani – noticed this and gently set me outside the circle and put her arms around the lady next to me. I would recall this fondly from time to time and that is how I remember my Peri Ammah (big mother) Gunamani of Kilinochchi. Wikipedia outlines the following example, which I believe fits the current generation Jaffna youth:
[A sample theme of a daughter lamenting father's death is described below:
Her body, wracked with grief, sways and her full-throated voice rises and falls as she talks to her father. "You were a freedom fighter, you worked with Subhash Chandra Bose, for six months you went to Germany," she wails, beating the ground with her hands. "In Germany, you met a girl you fell in love with. I found her photograph one day and you told me all about her, though my mother, whom you married when you came back to India after Independence, was angry."]
Instead of Subhash Chandra Bose if we plug in Velupillai Prabhakaran, we would have the Lankan version. As per my experience in Jaffna, any member of the Tamil Diaspora who comes to Jaffna after marriage will also be ‘angry’. The reasons are embedded in the following presentation:
[Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a hero in India, but whose attempts during World War II to rid India of British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan left a troubled legacy]
The truth in every experience supports us and where needed elevates our thinking as per our needs in a new environment. That is my understanding of the philosophy of rebirth.
A good proportion of Tamil Diaspora fit in with the above that continue to live in the past. The narratives by their children
in global language are to my mind Opparis. Likewise, those who lost their children to the war, due to their own negligence and/or desires. There are others who have shown more mature approach. One of them had the following discussion with me in regards to my article headed ‘GENOCIDE AGAINST ARMED COMMUNISTS’
Maature Member of the Tamil Diaspora (MMTD) : UNHRC resolution against SL hangs on present status of tamil problem and is the core issue leading to Geneva Fiasco
Gaja: ‘Fiasco’ says it all. We still have to resolve the problem
MMTD : SL rejected the resolutions, but came with4 suggestions, supporting the work of the office on missing persons and work for interim relief measures. Families of disappeared can know their fate and whereabouts. Set up a comprehensive accountability process. Dealing with prevailing marginalization
Gaja: Has the Tamil side accepted them?
MMTD : SL states that the Western powers use UNHRC to exert pressure on third world countries on the pretext of human rights and make use of Tamils to destabilise .
Gaja: If we are truly self-governing we would not submit to this pressure. When the West is passive, East becomes active. This includes India also
MMTD : Mishandling and not solving tamil problem since independence remains unresolved, sowing seeds for tamil separatism.
Gaja: Then we lose our traditional structures
MMTD : UNHRC resolutions against SL are tools of hegemony and imperialism.
Gaja: Hence my yesterday’s article which was sent to some voter countries
MMTD : SL says that Tamils must give up their campaign and request for reasonable, realistic remedy.
Gaja: It is disrespectful of self-governing Tamils.
Later I was referred to the panel discussion - Pursuing Accountability for Mass Atrocities: What Can the UN Human Rights Council Do? Learning from the Sri Lankan Context at https://youtu.be/RxijtEpJ0Eo
The panel details are presented as follows:
Co-hosted by PEARL and UCL Political Science - School of Public Policy
And Chaired by : Professor Beth Van Schaack (Beth Van Schaack is the Leah Kaplan Visiting Professor of Human Rights at Stanford Law School. She formerly served as Deputy to the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice of the U.S. Department of State)
[Panellists: Guruparan Kumaravadivel (Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan is an Attorney at Law. He was formerly the Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Law, University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka)
Madura Rasaratnam (Dr Madura Rasaratnam is Assistant Professor in Comparative Politics at City, University of London and the author of Tamils and the Nation: India and Sri Lanka Compared. She also serves on the Board of People for Equality and Relief in Lanka)
Ambika Satkunanathan (Ambika Satkunanathan is a Fellow at Open Society Foundations. She served as a commissioner with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission between 2015-2020)
Pablo de Greiff (Pablo is a Senior Fellow and Director, Transitional Justice Program, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, New York University. He was formerly the Rapporteur of the UN HRC Experts' Group on Prevention (2019-2020), and the former UN Special Rapporteur for the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence (2012-2018).]
I identified most with the presentations by Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan and Dr Madura Rasaratnam. I found the others’ to be disconnected to grassroots. Ms Ambika Satkunanathan, who was commissioner of Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission for example identified that the Nature of the government was different to the nature of the State and that we have failed thus far because we have been focusing on the nature of the government.
My parallel of the above is the relationship with a position instead of the individual occupying the position.
But Ms Ambika Satkunanathan claimed that the government was in denial that the problem was ethnic and that to them it was ‘terrorism’. In support Ms Ambika Satkunanathan pointed to the way the Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna had claimed that the war memorial that was recently demolished would have hindered North-South relationships.
This confirms that Ms Ambika Satkunanathan was also giving recognition to the nature of the government of the University of Jaffna and not its structure developed on the basis of its core purpose – which as per my knowledge is - Research and Teaching the discovery through Universal Research. My book Naan Australian is based largely on such research of the Common Mind of the University of NSW.
The erection of war memorial within University was not a manifestation of Research but another Oppari by a group that is unable to accept defat as the pillar of success. I accepted many painful defeats in Courts including in Northern Sri Lanka preceded by Administrative failures. But the true structures that I respected and attributed to came with me as my Karma and helped me develop higher mind structures. I believe that those Energies carried the essence of my work – including to the University of Jaffna where I believe I influenced a staff member to follow Due Process without taking revenge as he tended to demonstrate. Ms Ambika Satkunanathan, likewise demonstrated that she lacked the support of the Energies that founded and developed the University as per the core purposes it is expected to carry as its nuclear Energy. Emotion without feeling is the enemy of knowledge. The students who erected the war memorial were mourning the death of their loved ones – including combatants. It did not represent the feeling of the ideal student who sought and found the root cause of the war that caused this pain to its community.
There were opportunities for the University of Jaffna to discover through its local students and staff the true needs of its local environment. But these were effectively opposed not only by the Sri Lankan government’s military leaders but also by the LTTE. Dr Rajan Hoole brought this out in honoring Dr Rajani Rajasingham Thiranagama on the 30th anniversary of her assassination:
[The key to understanding Rajani as an intellectual is her compassion for the downtrodden, and those ridiculed and oppressed because of their birth. She was in spirit and action part of their struggle to emancipate themselves and was harshly critical of leaders who misguided and misused them. This comes through in her section ‘No More Tears Sister -The Experiences of Women’:
“Unlike in the other groups, however, in the EPRLF, women were taking a more assertive role and putting forward clear, honest political positions in times of crisis. For instance, after the massacre of the TELO cadre by the LTTE, the EPRLF was the sole movement in the ENLF (the United Front of the EPRLF, the EROS, the TELO and the LTTE) that protested and organised demonstrations and other protests. This campaign was led by their women members. This position contrasts with that of the other members of the ENLF, such as the EROS who tactically decided to keep quiet and co-exist with the LTTE. Later when the EPRLF was crushed by the LTTE, many EPRLF. women were beaten-up by the L.T.T.E.. One prominent member of the L.T.T.E. had said while beating some women:
“What, liberation for you all. Go and wait in the kitchen. That is the correct place for you.”
She adds, “Therefore the armed women’s sections developed either in terms of “use” as in the case of the LTTE. or in a mechanical fashion, as a graft of an idea borrowed from other liberation struggles as with the EPRLF. Thus, the passive stand by the LTTE women can be understood, as the movement approved of them exactly as their society did. The fact that the EPRLF, possessing an advanced consciousness, was unable to transplant it in the community, is a general phenomenon in all EPRLF activities – in the armed struggle, the mobilisation of people and the construction of people’s structures, among others. In every major aspect, the EPRLF exhibited estrangement between its theory and practice. Therefore neither our material reality nor our history had the basis to support a fully blown women’s section in the armed movements. It is tragic that these women’s sections themselves did not make any attempt to grasp their reality; an analysis of the position of women, the crucial social issues confronting them in Tamil society and women’s history, would have enlightened them and cleared the way to laying down the fundamental tasks and priorities.”
Her compassion extended no less to the children forced to bear arms cynically and die horribly, and the Indian soldier sent to fight and die in a war that was completely beyond his ken. Rajani laid emphasis on what is largely lost in Tamil politics today, as integral to the liberation struggle, to keep in view and support the aspirations of other Tamil speaking minorities. She saw India historically as a would-be superpower, whose limits were defined by other actors]
Thamilini was one such person who paid her dues to the LTTE’s male dominated leadership. Many of the deep seated problems in Jaffna are due not to race based discrimination but gender based and caste based which is now ‘Piravi Kunam’ / Genetical. This leads to ‘isolation’ and domination and then abuse of power.
Interestingly, Dr Guruparan did not dwell on the war-memorial issue but demonstrated a broader understanding of the issue presented in a multicultural background.
Ultimately all of us who discover truth in this issue – contribute to the solution - even if we do not share that truth with others. When we do share a common pathway is developed and accelerates the process of discovery of the common solution.
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