The buzzword is reconciliation. It enters into every report, every public speech, every public statement and every communication. Yet, in real terms what does it mean and to whom should it apply? If there is any confusion it is primarily because people are finding it hard to differentiate Tamils from Tigers Terrorists. That difficulty is brought about by the conduct of the Tamils themselves. Yet, in attempting to forge a better tomorrow it is good to look back at where the shortcomings have been to avoid repetitions.
- Clandestinely since the 1970s Tamil youth had been trained in arms – Not a single Tamil brought this to the public attention sufficient enough for the authorities to prepare itself and take counter action. Tamils referred to these armed youth as ‘their boys’. These ‘boys’ eventually killed off the leaders of other Tamil militant groups. By 1980 there were over 30 Tamil armed militant groups. Eventually LTTE became the ‘sole’ voice of the Tamils by virtue of the gun. Tamils were split into those that voluntarily cheered the LTTE, funding and helping them in every possible way, Tamils that did not like armed militancy but were happy to see a land declared Eelam for Tamils, Tamils that saw the scenario as an avenue to advance self-interests which became the norm for all refugee/asylum seekers, Tamils that were shocked at what the outcome would lead to as they belonged to a handful of people who had been peacefully living with the Sinhalese, shared cultures and events and saw no reason for the friction.
- Yet, what needs to now be acknowledged is that the majority of Tamils did not mind their own people to be used as bait, as cannon fodder by the LTTE. It must be acknowledged too that all throughout the Tamil high castes/class did not say a word against the Tamil children that LTTE recruited by force. This was so because these were ALL children of low caste families in the forgotten and poverty-stricken areas of the Vanni.
- Sad to say but there is a need to say that 95% of the Tamils actually have benefitted from the LTTE for they have found avenues to better their lives while the 5% Tamils have been the one’s that have suffered throughout and who remain voiceless until the economy can pick up and they can rise up to make up for all that their culture has denied them.
- If the world does not or have not heard the other version it is because this 5% or so of Tamils do not have a voice, have never had a voice and are unlikely to have a voice and when the Government is trying to give them a voice, those that deprived them are searching for all the reasons to deny that.
- It is extremely important to understand the element of caste and its role in the manner Tamils live, eat, think and behave – caste factor happens at every stage and in every step. LTTE curtailed it because it interfered in its dominance over Tamils but caste differences have again resurfaced following the fall of the LTTE. This next raises the question whether Tamils abhor their own low castes more than the Sinhalese and the answer is certainly yes but one that they won’t admit openly.
- In terms of numbers
- How many Tamils actually cheered the LTTE initially and over the years? How many secretly cheered the LTTE on its ways!
- How many Tamils used the LTTE as a means to seek refugee/asylum status and as a result remain indebted to LTTE still?
- How many Tamils silently rented out their homes or watched LTTE operatives pretend to act as civilians entering parts of South from where they planned their suicide missions and other terror acts and when caught pretended not to have even doubted them?
- How many Tamils disliked the idea of Tamil youth taking up arms, breaking the bond between Tamils and Sinhalese?
- How many had nothing to do with the LTTE initially and throughout until its demise in 2009? (either contributing to the kitty, helping LTTE in numerous other ways etc)
- How many still want for the LTTE to resurrect itself and are silently working towards this objective either in Sri Lanka or overseas?
- How many are working towards building another terror factor or working towards separatism of Sri Lanka in collaboration with the very same factors that were involved in terror throughout 3 decades?
- How many Tamils openly say they will not rent to Sinhalese and continue that policy while they buy land/rent or lease homes from Sinhalese
- How many living in the South among Sinhalese actually want Sinhalese and Muslims to settle in the North or they silently agree with the TNA that no Sinhalese or Muslim should be allowed to settle in the North?
- How many Tamils have come out to denounce the TNA’s racist statements made from the mouths of its Chief Minister and by all other TNA MPs against the Sinhalese in particular? How many Tamils have openly invited Sinhalese and Muslims to settle down in the North which is their Constitutional and fundamental right too. How many Tamils are able to question the logic behind Tamils coming to live in the South but Tamils complaining that Sinhalese want to live in the South
- How many Tamils have questioned the Tamil Diaspora most of whom had links to the LTTE? How many Tamils will now ask from these LTTE Diaspora groups what they did with the money they collected or will they not because 95% had their needs met by this network! Is it not the Vanni Tamils who were the voiceless few and the Eastern Tamils who were out of this equation as well?
What needs to be said clearly is that without identifying who cradled the tiger, silently and secretly cheered LTTE on and how many continue to do so even now, reconciliation efforts becomes meaningless and is just a paper effort without real meaning.
Given that there are scores that openly and secretly supported LTTE though not taking direct role in terrorism, it now requires them to reach out to the Sinhalese to rebuild Sri Lanka in an island-wide effort that should break borders and barriers. A crucial part of any reconciliation is to accept the wrongs, to identify the wrongs and to acknowledge those wrongs. Given above are crucial elements that drew Tamils away from harmonizing with the rest of the communities in Sri Lanka.
The Sinhalese at every turn have offered a hand of goodwill the examples of which go as far back as opening their homes when the UNP government unleashed thugs made up of all communities to attack Tamil homes. The Sinhalese gave shelter to the Tamils – that open acknowledgement is still awaiting. Then when the 2004 tsunami occurred the Sinhalese did not ask who was Tamil or Muslim but before the state or foreign organizations got their acts together, the Sinhalese in their private capacity sent food, clothing and other essentials to all areas affected. Thereafter, immediately after the end of the war and throughout all the calls made for relief was responded by the Sinhalese in giving whatever they could and sending these to the North. The Sinhalese did so without questioning whether they were going to Tamils or Muslims.
Nevertheless, it saddens us when even foreign aid is given foreign governments say that these aid are meant for Tamils or Muslims and Sinhalese have never been included. Little do they forget that the victims of 30 years of terrorism were mostly Sinhalese! People seem to have also forgotten that the North was not developed not because the Government of Sri Lanka or the people of Sri Lanka did not want the North to be developed but because areas of the North were out of bounds for the State of Sri Lanka and their officials and only LTTE law prevailed. It was the LTTE that denied development to the North and not the Sinhalese. Let people also remember that if Tamils were taken and held hostage it was the LTTE that kept them and refused to release them and it appears that the very entities who had been calling for their release knew all along that the LTTE were going to use them.
However, in making demands, the Tamil politicians will demand rights for the Tamils and the Muslim politicians will demand only for the Muslims and the Sinhalese politicians will look after the Muslims and Tamils first before they look at what the Sinhalese Buddhists do not have. We think it is time that everyone learns to look after everyone because only then can we start building a proper future.
Reconciliation has always had the Sinhalese extending their good will first, it is time for the Tamils and Muslims to now do so too.
Shenali D Waduge