Dear Sri Lankan Sinhalese,
In the last few days, especially after the election result day there are two common opinions spreading across among my Facebook friends circle.
One is largely from Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa's supporters, who now think Sri Lankan Tamils and Sri Lankan Muslims have voted out their favorite leader and LTTE has just realised its dream. Even Mr Rajapaksa echoed the same sentiment. While it may be true that the overwhelming votes of Tamil speaking people ousted Mr Rajapaksa from the top seat, one shouldn't forget that Tamil speaking people still didn't choose to boycott the election like they did in 2005 (following the instruction from LTTE), but voted for another Sri Lankan Sinhalese person Mr Sirisena. Be it a parliament election, local council election or a provincial council election, over the last few years Tamils shown their intent in expressing their views through democratic means clearly. So the sickening logic of Tamils being racists or separatists is nothing but a grape sour adversity. Grow up guys. The reason why Tamil speaking people voted for Mr Sirisena is not because he brings hope. Tamil speaking people just don't have any energy to live through another Rajapaksa term. The amount of corruption, authoritarianism and family rule affected the whole country. In addition, Tamil speaking people had few more issues than that. The bullying, intimidation, attacks, forced demographic changes, state oppression, not being able to light a small lamp for their lost loved ones, the barbaric act of BBS against the Muslim people ... all these reasons have nothing to do with LTTE, nothing to do with separatism, to an extent it was nothing to with any political solution or the lack of it either. Mr Rajapaksa regime dug their own grave and when opportunity arrived Tamil speaking people offered their hands to fill it with sand, most importantly in a democratic way.
Another opinion is from the people who are more moderate and probably the supporters of common opposition. They embrace the Tamils' vote and they don't see the so called "country dividing votes map" in a racist way. They think Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese are all part of one united country and it doesn't really matter a vote is a Tamil vote or Sinhalese vote. We all can now unite under one nationalism. Forget being sinhalese, forget being Tamil, forget being Muslim. Well, a wise thought in a broader perspective, but the reality is different.
The bottom line is, no sensible person would think him or herself being a racist. The racist ideologies arise only over single reason. "Insecurity". Sri Lankan Sinhalese felt insecure of Tamils in early independence and the fire was well fanned by the politicians. Unlike Jinnah, no Tamil leaders pledged for a separate country during the 1940s and leaders like Ramanathan and Arunasalam were seen as national leaders and not Tamil leaders. Things changed soon after the independence. The reasons are well discussed with different eyes over the years. Introspectively Tamils started feeling the same insecurity felt by Sinhalese, hence the mistrust, hence the democratic and later armed conflict in Sri Lanka.
During my teen and twenties it was often said in the Sri Lankan media that its the LTTE who not letting Tamils to enjoy their rights. It was the LTTE blocking a meaningful devolution to Tamil people. It may be partly true too. The 13th amendment was rejected by LTTE, rightly so. 13th amendment gives powers to provincial council governors only. Chandrika's devolution package had something in it, but was rejected by both LTTE and UNP. The peace talk during early 2000 failed due to both the parties. At one point Sinhalese politicians conceptually agreed to a Federal solution, well LTTE turned down that too.
Those days the intellectual society of Sinhalese community always gone for a political solution inclusive of meaningful devolution of power. Every election manifesto had something to address the national problem. Each and every Sri Lankan leaders including the former president Mr Rajapaksa favored a devolution package to Sri Lankan ethnic problem so long as LTTE did exist. After that they all comfortably forgotten the ethnic problem. They first trimmed the federal solution to 13+. Then 13. Then 13-. Now the national problem is comfortably squeezed into a terrorist problem. The terrorists are eradicated, so is the ethnic problem. The country is in peace. The people who talked about devolution are now gone to silent. They treat everything as a economic problem. They also claim Tamils are living peacefully in this country. Dr Sanjive Weerawarna, a person I adore and owe a lot, talked about a federal solution in his blog post sometime back. Now even he gone silent. It is the tactic which most of the Sinhalese moderate people following and the hardline rest go gaga against any kind of power sharing within the country. Now that there is no LTTE, there is nobody to trouble us, so why should we solve this national problem? Let them live and die through. Those who raise their voices got killed, expelled or oppressed. In effect Tamils feel cheated with few even think "what if LTTE..., Is it because of the LTTE, the Sinhalese leaders were willing to solve the national problem? ...". Now that is a dangerous thought and nobody would want that to happen.
In computer operating systems, there is a known algorithm called "Ostrich Algorithm". When there is a "race condition" occurs, just pretend nothing happened. Keep going just like how ostrich would dig its head into the soil when there is a danger around. Every Sinhala person in Facebook irrespective of the side is doing it. Since they keep quiet, politicians understandably keep quiet too. So first time ever since 1956, no election manifesto or political leader talked about addressing the ethnic problem in this country. They comfortably left it with a worry that it would have a reciprocating effect in their campaign. Even the Tamils worried about discussing it, worrying any comment would get converted into a Rajapaksa vote. Because their sole intention was to expel Rajapaksa this time and any comment on national problem wouldn't go well with Sinhalese. And Rajapaksa led UPFA campaign was fishing for any small opportunity to make hay.
There is a reason why the voting pattern of the country looks like the way it is now. While Sinhalese votes are divided pretty much evenly, Tamil speaking votes overwhelmingly gone against Rajapaksa regime. Why there isn't an even divide in those areas? Why have they all gone for one candidate? The reason is, their problems are unique and different from the majority Sinhalese community in the country. Since they are undivided one could argue that the Tamil speaking people have a very common issue in this country. Tamils speak a different language, although there are similarities, their culture is also so different to those who live in south. Every time someone says its a Sinhalese Buddhist nation, it hurts. Isn't it a Tamil nation? Isn't it an Islamic state? Why is it only for Sinhalese Buddhist? They don't care who the majority ethnic in the country. Its every man's wish to see their race, language and culture is in the forefront and celebrated. I was born and brought up in this country. My father was. My grandfather was. The ancestry tree's root is deeply built in this very special land we have an emotional attachment with it. But in Sri Lanka its only the Sinhala Buddhism more celebrated than the rest. Have you ever thought why would a Tamil Hindu need 12 poya day holidays a year? Just an example. Some would say its unavoidable because its so important for a Sinhala Buddhist. Yes but not for a non Buddhist. Isn't it my country too? The best way to hold the unity is to embrace the diversity of the country. Since we speak different languages, its important to devolve the power to states, so that the individual state can celebrate their own cultures, languages etc. Unity in diversity. If it takes to a single square root of land to satisfy this need, then we should devolve the power to that small piece of land too. Then the small piece of land will realize it cannot survive in its own, then it starts to rely more on the central government, there comes the real unity of the nation. Unity can never be prevailed through suppressing the opposing voices. Rajapaksa regime tried it. Hence they are voted out. So try to understand the voting pattern in the country. It doesn't infer separatism. It only shows the true aspirations of the Tamil people. Kindly don't ignore this message by comfortably tagging it as an LTTE campaign. Hopefully the common opposition gets it. If not, remember Tamil speaking people will continue to show their displeasure through democratic means.
My fellow Sri Lankan Tamils who live in and out of the country.
Most of the Tamils, largely the people who spent their teens in 80s and 90s in Sri Lanka are having a different take on this national question in contrast to the current generation's. They are fed-up, tired and not prepared to trust a single political leadership of Sri Lanka. They have their reasons and probably that's why they keep telling to boycott the election or not to put a trust on any Sinhalese leaders. But the next generation of Tamils are moving on. They want to fight for their rights through democratic means under the united Sri Lankan structure. The concept of Tamil Eelam is long gone in their mind and there is also a sense of feeling that we lost one too many lives, culture and people due to the armed conflict. I don't think any sensible youth in or out of Sri Lanka would want to take up arms for their rights. We should understand this generational evolution and should change our ideologies and politics duly. The former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr Annathurai given up the fight for the separate country "Tamil Nadu" and stayed under the united structure of India. The result is, the state Tamil Nadu does still exist and they are able to hold the grip on their value system without threatening the integrity of India. The current Sri Lankan Tamil generation wants to imitate something of similar and that's probably the feasible option too. So we should stop being emotional and critical. We would make ourselves utter foolish if we act that way while comfortably living in another country. Just get on with the life.
For the Tamils living in Sri Lanka, there is a worrying development of verbally attacking the people living overseas. Guys, we should remember that those people have equal stake in Sri Lanka's on going problem too. They may be living abroad earning dollars or pounds. But they also left their loved nation for a reason. They have lost their loved ones. They were threatened and bullied. They were ill treated. There are thousands of reasons. Most of the diaspora Tamils are asylums, including the ones who migrated on skill and academic basis. They chose the western countries over India for economic reason, yet they still left their own hometown and some of them still living in their past. Please respect their feelings. Its easy to tag someone a diaspora, a Colombo based person, etc.. but they all gone through the same painful path. Some walked in 80s. Some in 90s. Some now. Just because some are walking the road now doesn't give them any authority over the road. Foolish people are everywhere. Single out them and explain the situation or criticize. But do not rule them out.
There are few people, notably Tamil Civil Society and Kumaravadivel Guruparan continuously campaigned against both Mr Rajapaksa and Mr Sirisena. They are not diaspora Tamils. And they had their reasons and logic too. Its their view on how to address this election. Me personally favored what the majority Sri Lanka thought for their respective reasons. We should all try to oust Mr Rajapaksa. Well its done now. Does it bring any pleasure? Yes for Rajapaksa's loss and No for Maithree's win. I have very low expectation on Maithree. But I hope he would at least let a free of speech space in the country where Tamils can express their views clearly. Even this post is written with that hope. Under the Rajapaksa regime I would have worried of possible white van kidnapping, intimidation or even a airport pickup and eventually have deleted this post. I have hence deleted so many posts like this.
This time I don't and that's the "change". Wish its not the only change.