Culture of self-exclusion

By S. Sivathasan

(February 16, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) To a segment of Tamils in Sri Lanka, alienation from mainstream life has become a habit of thought.It has now got embedded in sentiment and inertia. Perhaps to a people habituated to fatalistic propensities, this mode of action came a bit too easily. So, for

eighty years have we cherished this ‘gift’, without ever looking it in the mouth. Whatever the vicissitudes in the nation’s political life, we stayed put. The no-change stance was given an aura of principled politics, both consistent and continuous. The time is now to veer completely and absolutely.

May 2009 has cleaved the course of the nation’s history. The upheaval has altered the political contours drastically and irretrievably. It will be unwise for both North and South not to recognize it. A sea change has already taken place. Cataclysmic may be a more apt description. Never will the country be the same again, either post 1931 or post 1948 or post 1983. North South relations are destined to follow a new course. In appreciation of the changes, Tamils can opt for a new beginning or let slip an opportunity that comes but rarely.

What is needed? Tamils ridding their mind of intellectual rubbish. Cerebration at fever heat. Deliberations and debate to burn the dross of a past that is archaic. A critical appraisal of past strategies in order to reshape future courses of action. Whatever the character of the erratic approaches of the past, a clear thread is visible. It is exclusion. Self inflicted alienation and then rue the fact of isolation.

The predicament of the Tamils with its impact on the Sinhalese was certainly not caused by one side. To the injured Tamil mind, the southern polity provided the necessary grist. A perception of ethnic incompatibility arising there from led to a situation of political intractability. Both sides summoning courage have to consign the past to oblivion. Dwelling on the wholesome side of ethnic harmony, a new edifice on a sound foundation needs to be built.

The post war world has compressed a millennium of development into just half a century.

For no country is there an escape from a globalised economy. Technology cannot stall nor urbanization stop. Productive energies will proceed apace. Taking the whole gamut of development keenly into account, the Tamils have to set their feet on new territory. Basic wherewithal for a life of dignity is what a people rendered prostrate seek with fervour. The most alluring course is to perfect the strategies for collaborative effort, meaningful investment, commensurate returns and equitable distribution. Can the Tamils accomplish these by sulking in a nook and staying behind? Painting themselves into a corner and then complain that they are cornered?

For once, the political weight of the Tamils was felt and therefore sought after. Instead of benefiting from the new found strategic advantage we proceeded to reduce it to nullity with three counterweights. Firstly, a Tamil to contest and lighten the weight. Secondly, Tamils to boycott and lighten it further. Thirdly, the voters to spoil the ballot and consummate the process of weightlessness. Who are ruining the Tamils? Not the Sinhalese many would assert.

The erratic course, now jettisoned, bristled with levity and displayed avoidance of responsibility. ‘Carrying the deity, while not bearing the load’ goes a Tamil saying. They have been spurned by the Tamils as detrimental, disastrous and suicidal. Exercising one’s sagacity and opting for pragmatism, the Tamil leadership has to abandon negative sentiments and to lead the people courageously and single mindedly. A predilection for collaborative effort needs to supercede the withered attitude of self- exclusion.

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