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Four historic conjunctures where Tamil thinking tumbled in to "Tappitam"- II

Link to Part One

By Gam Vaesiya, Ontario

The Vadukkoddei (Batakotte) Voodoo

(June 01, Ontario, Sri Lanka Guardian) Pulip Padai was a rather unsuccessful precursor to the many militant youth groups sponsored by the ITAK and later, by the TULF which prided itself on its "boys". The leaders probably believed that they could control the "boys" in much the same way that Cinnamon Garden housewives control their low-caste Tamil domestic help ("servants") . By then, due to a series of racial riots that polarized the two ethnic groups apart, attitudes in the Tamil community had hardened sufficiently for the ITAK to expose its original agenda clearly and stridently.

Vadukkoddei was an ancient Sinhalese garrison town, known till the 1900s as "Batakotte", a name used even by the American Seminary which existed here before the rise of Jaffna College. Ironically, this town became the stage for the 1976 "Vadukkoddei resolution" which essentially declared that the Tamils must seek separation from the Sinhalese and create the independent state of Eelam in the North and the East. These were claimed to be "exclusive homelands of the Tamils". Although some writers claim that the resolution was pushed to an extreme wording by the "boys", it is stated by A. J. Wilson that S. J. V. Chelvanayagam read it carefully and endorsed it. The speeches of Chelvanaygam in 1975, or even the 1949 proceedings of the ITAK show that the Vadukkkodei resolution bears full continuity with the earliest thinking of Chelvanayagam, and the ITAK.

However, Thondaman Sr., the leader of the Hill-country Tamils was NOT a party to the Vadukkoddei Voodoo. Thondaman was an adroit politician who understood that he had to safeguard his fragile people from the possibles pitfalls of Marxist or racist extremism. He knew that his community, though Tamil speaking like the Muslims, were not included in the so called "Jaffna Kingdom" of the past.

The Vadukkodei resolution was in itself nothing but a political declaration reflecting the ethnic polarization of the nation. The TULF went to the polls in 1977 and successfully obtained a mandate from the Tamil population in the North. The vote in the Eastern province did not go in favour of the TULF. Even in the North, several "hard-line" Eelam candidates who run on the ticket of full separation lost the vote (the 1977 elections have been discussed recently by Neville Ladduwahetty, Island 25-may-2005. See- an external link ) Nevertheless, the TULF parlimentarians used the 1977 election victory as a bargaining chip to push for a strongly ethnic agenda, buttressed with the threat of separation. In some ways1977 was similar to the support given to Adolf Hitler by the Germans in the early 1930s. The Germans, humiliated by defeat and strongly mesmerized by the nationalist jingoism of Hilter, did not notice the dark and ominous abdomen of Nazism. In the same way,the Tamil leaders in Vadukkoddei did not see the destiny of Durraiappah hovering over them.

The electoral success of the TULF led J. R. Jayawardena (JRJ) to make every possible concession to the Tamil leadership. Amirthalingam and others accepted this offer. In reality, the leaders of the TULF and the UNP all lived in the "Karavaakaadu" or Cinnamon Gardens enclave. Their nationalism could be reconciled within the "free market" money-making "robber Barron" environment unleashed by J. R. Jayawardene. Thus, if the TULF and the UNP had been left to themselves, they may have crafted a mutually acceptable solution. Such a solution would most certainly not have bothered about the poor people of the Vanni or Jaffna. But it would have at least ensured a peaceful society. Thondaman Sr.,having dissociated from the Vadukkoddei resolution, had indeed got "all he wanted" from the J. R. government.

But the simple minded rustic boys of Vaddukkoddei could not understand the TULF "striking a deal" with the "Sinhalese government" . The TULF leaders and Kasi Anandan the poet had categorically denounced the Sinhala rulers. The Voodoo of Vdukkoddei had arisen in the form of the LTTE to strike down Amirthlingam and "other traitors". Fortunately, Chelvanayagam had been spared of seeing the mayhem of the Voodoo that had arisen from his vision. His 1949 vision of exclusive Tamil homelands was the direct antithesis of the moral high road advocated by the Jaffna Youth league in 1930. By murdering TULF leaders, the LTTE lost all rights to the electoral vote of 1977. The "boys" of the TULF had a clear end - Eelam, and any means was justified to reach this end. They welcomed state terror.

By all accounts, Black July was partly a machination of some UNP Sinhala extremist politicians. It was also an event engineered by the LTTE. Its agent was a police officer known as Nadesan (later to become Tamilchelvam's replacement). Remarkably, almost all the top officials in the police, viz., the Inspector General of Police and his deputies, were Tamils. They remained impassive and did not enforce even a token level of intervention in the name of law and order. No judicial commission has gone into these events as the leaders of both ends of the ethnic divide have skeletons to hide. But now that many of those individuals are dead, assassinated or killed in the war, it is time for an impartial inquiry into one of the great moral blots on the Nation.

The moral madness of the no-fire zone

If the Voodoo of Vadukkdodei manifested itself in the moral precipice of Black July, it was only the beginning. Eelam was "The objective – no matter how". In Tamil society, loyalty to one's kith and kin comes before anything else. That is, one may lie, cheat or do worse to protect a family member. Tamil racism is based on extending this to every Tamil who "has to be protected from the Sinhalese foe".

Assassinating "traitors" was already begun under the tutelage of the TULF. Holding Tamils as hostages was a practice which began against the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IKPF). The use of child soldiers, young women as spies and suicide cadre followed in tandem. Psychological black mail of the highest level was carried out by offering Thaleepan as a human sacrifice in front of the Nallur Temple. Attacks on Buddhist temples, mosques, and on civilians in undefended border villages were used in the hope of re-creating the 1983 Black July. When the State war machine retaliated mercilessly, the LTTE rejoiced in the destruction, and found more and more sympathizers in the diaspora.

The diaspora itself consisted of two groups. There were Tamils who immigrated claiming State persecution. There were other Tamils who immigrated claiming LTTE persecution. Every genuine case was only one in ten out of the flood of economic refugees who made it good to Colombo, and then to foreign climes. It was the in-grained Tamil principle of loyalty to one's kith and kin that deprived them of the moral high road. It was necessary to defend the Tamils who are fighting for the Tamils. It is necessary to twist the truth and trim the tune in their defense and to ultimately achieve Eelam. When Tamils were ordered to leave Jaffna and corralled to the Vanni, it was easy to imagine that it was a temporary step and ignore the hostage taking. When Tamils were held hostage in Vakarai, and later even in Madhu, it was still easy to ignore all that and remain mesmerized by the dream of Eelam. A Rayuppu Joseph could play the prodigal priest and take even the Sacred Mother of Madhu hostage. The church fathers had long lost their moral compass and collaborated with Prabhakaran, taking a leaf from Pope Piis XII and many of his Cardinals who enjoyed a Concordat with Hitler.

However, as the Vanni war developed, it became clear even to confirmed supporters of the LTTE that the poor and defenseless people are being used by the LTTE merely as an expendable cover. The wealthier and more influential Tamils could get the authorization to leave. But this was not the case for some 250,000 poor Vanni Tamils. Dr. Noel Nadesan, Editor of the Uthayam, a Tamil News paper in Australia pleaded in August 2008 to "let my people go". Dissenting Tamil writers like J.Jeyaraj, Sebastian Rasalingam, Thomas Johnpulle as well as the UTHR authors had become increasingly vocal. And yet the TNA, the LTTE and the policy makers continued to ignore the moral imperative. The Tamilnet continued to spin yarns and publish doctored pictures of past carnage. The military offensive at the time had been directed mainly towards the attrition of the LTTE cadre. Unlike in the yet-to-be no-fire zone, the people had not been corralled into a highly dense shield around the LTTE leaders who moved along a network of air-conditioned bunkers.

The moral cry of the Uthayam Editor and the likes of Rasalingam were NOT picked up by the diaspora. Talk show activists like Poopala-Pillai, and writers like Narapala-singham and Satheesan Kumaran continued to call far Eeelam and even a return to the borders of the cease-fire agreement (CFA) of 2002!. Mindless Marxists like Kumar David and Wicramabahu continued to regard the LTTE as the epitome of Liberation.

What if the Expatriate Tamils had taken the high moral road and demanded Tamilnet to be truthful? What if the expatriate Tamils had demanded that Noel Nadesan's call to "let the people go" be heeded?

What if the expatriate Tamils had rejected the TNA and put its weight behind Ananadasangaree who is the last chastened remnant of the old TULF?

Ethnic Equilibration has to accompany devolution.

However, it is still not too late, at least for the Tamils living in Sri Lanka, to forge ahead in a new direction. Parliamentary programs and civil society after the world war in Japan and Germany were restored after a period of intense reconstruction. No Marshal-plan type generous aid has been offered to Sri Lanka. Instead, the West is incensed to punish Sri Lanka because it did not conduct its politics according to the western agenda as set out by Norway, Britain and the EU.

The next step is very clear. The displaced people, including the Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils driven out of the North need to be settled. Any type of power devolution needs to be balanced by ethnic equilibration if suspicion is to be replaced by confidence in the unity of the country. A rapid development of infrastructure, fast-rail connectivity and administrative cohesion have to be established. Finally, parliamentary elections would enable a new set of Tamil l politicians to fill the vacuum of leadership that seems to exist in Tamil politics today.
-Sri Lanka Guardian


Unknown said...

It is the ignorant racist attitudes of people like you who are the curse of the country. If only you and the greedy politicians and the so called figure heads of a peaceful religion let people to live they will live.

jean-pierre said...

This explains quite lucidly the moral failure of the Tamil leadership as well as the church, but it only marginally touches the "state terror" aspects of the problem. However, the author has correctly summarized the ethos of the Tamil side. There is a similar problem on the Sinhalese side, and now what is needed is a sense of "samathanaanam".

bodhi Dhana said...

As this writer has pointed out, Ponnambalam demanded the unreasonable from the british. Prabakaran demanded the unreasonable because by then nothing else was on the cards. But linking all this to the moral failure of the Tamils, and the Sinhalese, is only one aspect of the issue. There was indeed a tit for tat between the Tamils and the Sinhalese till 1983. But after 1983, the Sinhalese have resisted the attempts by the LTTE to provoke them and create new race riots. Today more than 50% of the Tamils live in the south. so, the message must be that the END DOES NOT JUSTIFY THE MEANS.

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