Mullivaikal: The moment of deep sorrow and courage

by Jude Lal Fernando

(May 21, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) Today, we mourn from the very depths of our hearts the deaths of thousands of Tamils who were killed in Mullivaikal as well as in other places. Who are they? They are our beautiful children, our courageous young sons and daughters, beloved parents and grandparents whose burial grounds we do not know.

On this day, as a Sinhalese, let me remember not only the physical deaths of thousands of Tamils, but also the moral and spiritual death of the Sinhala nation to which I belong, a nation that has been built on the unknown graveyards of many thousands of my Tamil sisters and brothers.

As Martin Luther King lamented over his own American nation during the war against the people of Vietnam; a nation which spends on warfare and not on healthcare, welfare and education of its people is spiritually and morally doomed.

Mullivaikal does not mark the end of Tamil aspiration for nationhood, homeland and self-determination, but it marks another defeat of humanity.

Anybody who has a conscience among the Sinhalese and in the international community needs to know that Vanni massacre of Tamils questions our humanity rather than the project of Tamil Eelam.

Therefore, Mullivaikal is a historical moment in the dawn of the twentieth century that highly questions the humanity of this so called global village.

This is the fundamental moral truth about Vanni massacre of Tamils.

What is the political truth about Mullivaikal?

Mullivaikal is the climax of the brutality of the Sri Lankan state which was first created by the British colonial rule and rebuilt again and again by every Sinhala ruling party after the so called independence in 1948.

Are the Sinhalese unaware of the massacre of the Tamils for the last 60 years?

Are they unaware of the massacre of the Tamils in 1983 and 2009?

In 1983, the massacre was carried out by the unofficial thugs of the Sri Lankan state. In 2009, it was carried out by the official military of the same state with the full support of every major power in the international community.

The Sinhala nation is aware of the massacres. If so as human beings how do they justify such brutality of the state? They justify it by playing the role of victimhood saying that it is they who were attacked and that they have a right to defend themselves as a state. Is that all? No, they go further claiming a moral obligation to conduct a humanitarian war to protect the Tamils from the LTTE. The same arguments can be seen when the USA argues for its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and when Israel argues for invasion of Palestine.

Therefore, it is not right to say that the Sinhala nation does not know the massacres, but they cannot know because they have justified the massacres wholeheartedly in the name of the Sri Lankan state.

Didn't the UN and the international community know about? Is it a mistake from their part not to reveal the truth about the massacres? No, it is not a mistake, it is a deliberate action taken by them to protect the Sri Lankan state. Therefore, their omission is not an error or a mistake, but a part of the crime against the Tamil people.

Let me say one thing. It is true that the Tamils had to face the first genocidal massacre of the 21 st century, but this should not lead to a sense of helpless victimhood where the very forces who are responsible are seen to be saviours by the Tamils.

It is the Tamil people who should decide what their future course of action should be. Let me echo the words of Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and many others who led the oppressed peoples. The path to justice can never be stopped as long as people are determined to walk the long walk to freedom...

It is the paradox in the Sri Lankan history, that while the Sinhala nation celebrates the 2600 anniversary of Lord Buddha's Enlightenment the Tamils also have to remember the massacre of their loved ones on the 18 th of May this year. The most nonviolent preaching of Lord Buddha expressed compassion not only to every human being on earth but also to every creature, this preaching radically challenged and transformed kingdoms and societies promoting justice and peaceful coexistence in Asia. Could the Sinhala nation celebrate that Great Human Being's Enlightenment while the Sri Lankan state does not permit lighting a single candle in the Tamil homeland remembering the dear ones who were killed in Vanni?

This paradox or irony is a shame on every human, moral and religious value we cherish. It is against the eternal dharma of Lord Buddha and every other founder of great ethical and religious traditions.

By allowing the Sri Lankan state to oppress the Tamil people the Sinhala society has established a regime that destroys every form of democratic dissent. By building a prison for the Tamils, the Sinhalese have made their own chains. Let those who have ears listen, eyes see, tongues speak out!

Finally, this day is not only a day of mourning and day of shame, but it is also a day of remembrance of courage of so many thousands of my Tamil brothers and sisters who upheld the dream of a dignified life until the last breath of their lives.

Let that courage be our inspiration, so that our mourning will not end in a sense of helpless victimhood, but reinvigorate us to walk the journey towards the goal of justice, dignity and freedom as a people.

Jude Lal Fernando is a prominent political activist working at the Irish School of Ecumenics

Tell a Friend