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You are absolutely correct

By Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan
Letter to the Editor

(February 13, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Please allow me to congratulate, through your columns, Ms Tisaranee Gunaskera on her article (Sri Lanka Guardian, 9th February 2010), titled ‘2010: Our Nineteen Eighty-Four’.

Many a traditional fairy story ends with, “and they got married and lived happily ever after”. (The second part, “happily ever after”, does not often happen and, perhaps, that is why such tales are described as “fairy”, that is, unreal, stories.) On somewhat similar lines, it was often said, “Once the Tigers are defeated” or “If only the Tigers were defeated”, then Sri Lanka would become a true Paradise Isle - not just in terms of scenic beauty; not just for wealthy Sri Lankans and foreign tourists.

With the Tigers defeated, Sri Lankans would live happily, if not ever after, for a long, long time. Independence is not the end but the beginning, the start of constructing a different, happier, country. Independence is, more importantly, a responsibility and an opportunity, than an achievement which permits one to sit back and enjoy life. The dearly wished, and long longed for, defeat of the Tigers is not only an opportunity but an event that presents Sri Lankans with an obligation, a duty.

The reaction of most Sinhalese to the decimation of the Tigers can be variously described: relief and joy; on the part of chauvinists, jubilation and triumphalism, while the less restrained took to the streets in frenzied, belligerent, euphoria. The brief span and spasm of intoxication has been followed by a hangover: President and erstwhile Commander have become enemies. The latter has been arrested by some of those whom he recently led, and in whose admiration, near hero-worship, he once basked. The Island drifts further and further into autocracy, violence, disrespect for the rule of law, and the decencies of life. Some must ask themselves, “Were the Tigers eliminated for this?”

Turning to the Tamils, many of them opposed the Tigers because of the nature and methods adopted by the latter: authoritarianism, and a ready resort, not to debate and discussion, but to the ‘arguments’ of violence and force. Fighting for the freedom of the Tamils, they deprived Tamils of the right to disagree, to have another perspective, approach or methodology. Still other Tamils opposed the Tigers because of the aim of a separate state: their “dream” was of a united Island - united not by the brute force of arms, but by a voluntary and happy coming together of different groups, a unity in diversity where difference is respected, and multiplicity celebrated. Now Tamils feel that to many Sinhalese, the defeat of the Tigers was all that mattered. It was an end in itself, and there is no care or concern to ensure that ideals such as justice, equality and inclusion – as lofty as they are decent and humane - are realized. Many of their Sinhalese friends who were anxious that the Tigers be defeated; who rejoiced when that did happen, show no concern at the continued discrimination and bullying suffered by Tamils. The Tamils are abandoned to their fate, with homes still occupied by the army or in detention centres, their traditional homeland devastated and made desolate by war. The appalling disregard for civilian lives on the part of the government and its army during the final phase of the war caused shock, distress and sorrow. Tisaranee Gunaskera suggests that the year 2010 be seen (applying the title of George Orwell’s novel) as Sri Lanka’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. If so, for Tamils, 2009 was 1983 on a larger scale. Even some of those Tamils who opposed the Tigers must, at times, be tempted to wonder, “Perhaps, it was, after all, better under them?”

And so we have, on the one side, Sinhalese who are disillusioned; on the other, Tamils who feel betrayed, defenceless and helpless, insecure and uncertain about the future. It is, truly, the nadir of the Tamils.

But in the political (and national) sphere things do not happen, as did the tsunami: they are made to happen by the actions (including words, spoken or written) of individuals and groups. The duty and the responsibility; the blame or credit, do not lie elsewhere. “And they lived happily” (in a decent and peaceful, just and prosperous island) can still be realized. Tisaranee Gunaskera’s article is but one such positive contribution and effort, among several, being made by members of all groups towards this desideratum and dream.

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